● IN-Sen: Just before the filing deadline in 2010, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh shockingly declared he'd retire, turning a seat that Democrats were favored to hold into one that the GOP was easily able to pick up. Now, just as unexpectedly, Bayh will reportedly announce that he's going to wage a comeback for the very seat he abandoned six years ago. We have lots to discuss.
First, the mechanics. Team Blue had been fielding ex-Rep. Baron Hill, but he'd waged a desultory campaign and raised less than $1 million as of mid-April, a pitiful sum for a statewide race. Hill dropped out Monday morning, clearing the way for Democrats to replace his name on the ballot with Bayh's. (It's almost a mirror-image of what went down in 2010, when Bayh dropped out too late for anyone else to get enough signatures to make the primary ballot, and the party's central committee chose Rep. Brad Ellsworth as their nominee.)
Republicans, meanwhile, are defending an open seat, since the man who succeeded Bayh, Sen. Dan Coats, decided to quit after just one term. (Coats had previously served in the Senate from 1989 to 1999, appointed to the vacancy left behind by none other than Dan Quayle.) In Coats' stead, Republicans had chosen Rep. Todd Young, an establishment-oriented type who handily defeated a tea partying fellow congressman in the GOP primary earlier this year.
But Young's campaign has faced some troubles (only a nakedly partisan ruling by election officials saved him from getting knocked off the ballot for filing too few signatures), and he certainly didn't imagine he'd suddenly land a top-flight opponent in the general election. Indeed, he had just over $1 million in the bank at the end of June, which doesn't even put him in the top 20 among Senate candidates in competitive races this year.
Bayh, by contrast, still has an extraordinary $9.3 million left in his campaign account, one reason Democrats wanted him back in. (It's also a reason they gnashed their teeth so furiously six years ago, since Bayh's last-minute departure left them in the lurch financially—and he wasn't particularly generous with his cash.) But more important than money is Bayh's name and reputation. Bayh, who hails from one of Indiana's most prominent political families, won two terms as governor starting in 1988 (when he was just 33 years old), then went on to win election to the Senate in dominant fashion in 1998—reclaiming the seat his father, progressive icon Birch Bayh, had lost to Quayle in 1980.
But while Evan and Birch may have represented the same seat, they did not share the same politics. The younger Bayh established himself on the Democrats' right flank in the Senate, not just voting for the Iraq war but, as Vox reminds us, going so far as to co-sponsor the resolution authorizing it. He was also one of just three Democrats to vote for Bush's 2003 capital gains tax cuts.
Indiana is, though, a conservative state, so the voting record Bayh amassed wasn't too surprising, especially since Quayle defeated his father in part by attacking the elder Bayh as an out-of-touch liberal. But Bayh was never content merely to vote against his party—he always felt compelled to speak against it, too, often in the douchiest of terms. Bayh didn't just behave like a proverbial "Fox News Democrat," he actually became one, signing on with Rupert Murdoch's network not long after leaving the Senate.
And Bayh's other retirement moves have only served to make him look like a very typical politician. Despite calling for serious reforms to the filibuster and campaign finance laws in a surprisingly aggressive op-ed on his way out the door, Bayh went on to take jobs with both a massive lobbying firm and a private equity shop, which Ezra Klein dubbed "sad" and "hypocritical." His family name might still be golden back home, but now he's given Republicans new ways to tarnish it. (And as Nathan Gonzales notes, it seems that Bayh hasn't spent much time at home lo these past many years, an attack that was particularly pungent when wielded against now-former GOP Sen. Dick Lugar in 2012.)
Despite his history of apostasies, Bayh was a near-finalist when Barack Obama was choosing a running-mate in 2008, and he still has plenty of friends in the establishment: Look no further than the fact that Democrats kept on trying to persuade him to get into the race even though there are just four months left in the election cycle. And there's no doubt that he's a huge upgrade over Hill, who was only going to win by the grace of some sort of fluky miracle.
Progressives certainly won't love Bayh if he makes it back to the Senate any more than they did during his first go-round, but he does give Democrats a real chance to win. Bayh also will likely force Team Red to spend some money in a contest that they thought they could take for granted. If all Bayh does is divert some conservative money from other Senate battlegrounds, Democratic candidates elsewhere will be grateful.
However, Bayh hasn't actually run for any office since 2004, which is a very long layoff. To put that into perspective, neither YouTube, Twitter, nor the iPhone had been invented when Bayh's name last appeared on a ballot. And while Indiana narrowly backed Obama in 2008, neither Hillary Clinton nor her allies have shown any interest in targeting its 11 electoral votes this time. Bayh easily beat a weak opponent in 2004 while George W. Bush was decisively carrying the state, so he's proven he can appeal to ticket-splitters.
But even in spite of his missteps, Young looks like the type of generic Republican who usually wins in Indiana, and Bayh will somehow need to appeal to plenty of Donald Trump voters to put him over the top. In view of all these considerations, we're shifting our rating on this race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican. Bayh changes the game, but just how much isn't yet clear, and there's a lot we'll want to see before we consider moving this race any further.
2Q Fundraising: Be sure to check out our second quarter Senate fundraising chart, which we'll be updating as new numbers come in.
● AZ-Sen: John McCain (R-inc): $1.8 million raised, $5.8 million cash-on-hand; Ann Kirkpatrick (D): $1.8 million raised, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
● CO-Sen: Michael Bennet (D-inc): $2.7 million raised, $6.1 million cash-on-hand
● IN-Sen: Todd Young (R): $1.4 million raised, $1.23 million cash-on-hand
● LA-Sen: Charles Boustany (R): $1.1 million raised
● NC-Sen: Richard Burr (R-inc): $1.57 million raised, $7 million cash-on-hand
● AK-AL: Steve Lindbeck (D): $419,000 raised, $325,000 cash-on-hand
● CA-17: Ro Khanna (D): $1.4 million cash-on-hand
● CA-24: Salud Carbajal (D): $493,000 raised, $539,000 cash-on-hand
● CA-31: Pete Aguilar (D-inc): $470,000 raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
● FL-01: Matt Gaetz (R): $367,000 raised
● IA-01: Monica Vernon (D): $374,000 raised, $354,000 cash-on-hand
● IL-12: Mike Bost (R-inc): $330,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand
● LA-03: Scott Angelle (R): $419,000 raised, $679,000 cash-on-hand; Greg Ellison (R): $101,000 raised, $244,000 cash-on-hand; Brett Geymann (R): $49,000 raised; Clay Higgins (R): $70,000 raised; Gus Rantz (R): $100,000 raised, $228,000 cash-on-hand; Joseph Rees (R): $46,000 raised, $75,000 self-funded
● MN-03: Erik Paulsen (R-inc): $1 million raised, $3.2 million cash-on-hand; Terri Bonoff (D): $620,000 raised
● NE-02: Brad Ashford (D-inc): $430,000 raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
● NV-04: Ruben Kihuen (D): $465,000 raised, $230,000 cash-on-hand
● AZ-Sen: On behalf of the pro-John McCain super PAC Arizona Grassroots Action, NMB Research takes a look at the Aug. 30 GOP primary and gives the incumbent a 47-22 lead over ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward. The only other recent primary poll we've seen came from PPP, and they had McCain a 39-26 edge over Ward. According to the AGA memo, an unreleased January poll found McCain up 47-40.
A longtime senator taking less than 50 percent against a little-known primary foe in a friendly poll isn't anything to write home about (you could even say it's hardly good news... for John McCain!). However, Ward has little money or outside support, so she may not be able to take advantage of McCain's weakness. Interestingly, AGA did not include any general election numbers when they released the poll to Morning Consult.
● FL-Sen: The Louisiana polling firm JMC Analytics takes a look at the Florida Senate race, and they give GOP Sen. Marco Rubio a 40-33 edge against Rep. Patrick Murphy, the preferred candidate of national Democrats; fellow Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson trails by a similar 41-33 margin.
Last month, shortly before Rubio entered the race, Quinnipiac found him leading Murphy by an identical 47-40 margin. However, recent PPP and SurveyUSA polls found a very tight race. JMC gives Donald Trump a 47-42 lead over Hillary Clinton in Florida, making this Trump's best poll here all year; even a recent survey for GOP Rick Scott's political group, which did not release numbers for the Senate race, gave Trump "just" a 47-45 edge. The HuffPost poll average, which did not include these two polls at the time of this writeup, gives Clinton a 48-41 edge in Florida.
Meanwhile, another conservative group is preparing for the general election. The Koch-aligned Freedom Partners has reserved $2 million, and Politico says that their ads will last from Aug. 30 to Oct. 10. On the Democratic side, Rep. Gwen Graham has endorsed Murphy's campaign; Graham's father, ex-Sen. Bob Graham, threw his support behind Murphy months ago.
● IL-Sen: Even the most vulnerable of Senate incumbents can usually count on outspending their opponent. For instance, Democratic Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor held a $4 million to $2.76 million cash-on-hand edge over Republican Tom Cotton at this point in the last cycle; Cotton ended up beating Pryor 57-39. But Republican Sen. Mark Kirk doesn't even have that going for him. Over the last three months, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth outraised Kirk $2.7 million to $1 million, and she holds a wide $5.5 million to $3.1 million cash-on-hand edge.
Illinois is a solidly Democratic state in presidential cycles, and Kirk would have had a tough time winning even if he could outspend Duckworth. But to make matters worse for Kirk, national Republicans haven't shown any real interest in spending on his behalf. Even Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who rivals Kirk for the title of most vulnerable Republican senator in the country, is getting outside help. National Democrats haven't invested much into this contest either, a sign that they feel good about Duckworth's chances. There has been no public polling here in months, but Republican donors and outside groups seem to agree that Kirk's just a bad investment this year.
● NV-Sen: Monmouth takes a peek at the rarely polled Nevada Senate race, and gives Republican Joe Heck a 42-40 lead over Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto; the same sample gives Hillary Clinton a 45-41 edge over Donald Trump. Both parties are spending heavily in the Senate contest, which suggests that they agree things are tight.
● WI-Sen: While national Republicans appear to have triaged Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, they're not abandoning Sen. Ron Johnson even in the face of ugly polls. Politico reports that Freedom Partners, a member of the Koch brothers network, has reserved $1.3 million for a buy that will start Aug. 3 and end Oct. 4. Meanwhile, Democrat Russ Feingold is out with another spot aimed at Johnson that makes use of one of the Republican senator's many gaffes.
Last year, Johnson declared that "[i]t's pretty easy to get a federal [student] loan, college is fun." In the commercial, Feingold appears in what looks like a college library as several students stare at their laptops (unrealistically, not one student is annoyingly talking on the phone while everyone else is trying to cram), as Feingold says that "[t]hese hardworking students are busy studying. But Sen. Ron Johnson says that kids go to college just to have fun." Feingold notes that over 500,000 people in the state have student loans, "but Ron Johnson doesn't believe there should be student loans." A student then exclaims, "What?! I couldn't afford college!" Feingold ends by calling for students to graduate with "less debt and more job opportunities," which inspires the assembled students to look up and exclaim, "Right!"
● MO-Gov: On behalf of the political newsletter Missouri Scout, Republican pollster Remington Research takes another look at the Aug. 2 GOP primary, and finds a big shift over the last three weeks. Retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens leads wealthy businessman John Brunner 29-22, with ex-U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway taking 16 and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder at 12. Remington's last poll showed things much closer, with Brunner leading Hanaway 23-19, and Greitens edging Kinder 17-16 for third place. Greitens has been airing plenty of ads, so it's quite possible that he's surged as he's become better known.
Brunner seems to agree with this poll that Greitens is his main opponent. Brunner's spot, which the Missouri Times says has aired in multiple media markets, argues that "Eric Greitens' pals are lying about honest Marine and businessman John Brunner." The narrator goes on to accuse Greitens of having "pro-gay marriage and pro-amnesty views," and says that he applauded Obama at a Democratic convention. The commercial also says that Greitens praised Obama's "vision and leadership" while asking for more stimulus spending, before saying that Greitens once planned to run for office as a Democrat.
It's no secret that Greitens used to be a Democrat. According to ex-Democratic Gov. Bob Holden, the two attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention; Greitens also met with the DCCC ahead of a possible 2010 House bid. Interestingly, the ad doesn't really go into detail about Greitens' past liberal views, aside from a brief quote praising the president. If the Brunner campaign can actually dig up some old Greitens' quotes where he expresses some liberal positions, that will be far more devastating than the narrator vaguely noting that Greitens had "pro-gay marriage and pro-amnesty views." Whoever emerges with the GOP nod will face Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster in November.
● VT-Gov: Ex-state Sen. Peter Galbraith is out with his second ad ahead of the three-way Aug. 9 Democratic primary. Galbraith emphasizes his support for single-payer health care, and pledges that he has a plan to pay for it.
● FL-04: After riding around like a cowboy for his first two ads, attorney Hans Tanzler III has decided to emulate a different member of the Village People in his latest commercial. Tanzler, a Republican, appears in a factory and says that while politicians love to talk about making jobs, "Washington talk is cheap." As footage of Tanzler in a hardhat plays, the candidate lays out his agenda, saying he wants to cut taxes, end over-regulation, and stop negotiating bad trade deals. You know what, go back to the cowboy ads: Those were stupid, but at least not painfully generic.
● FL-09: State Sen. Darren Soto is launching two spots ahead of the Aug. 30 primary for this safely blue seat. In his first ad, Soto highlights how his mother helped inspire him to become a public servant. Soto says that in the legislature, he "wrote a law that gave victims of sexual abuse more time to report their attackers," and fought to expose bad nursing homes. Soto's Spanish spot highlights that he would be Florida's first congressman of Puerto Rican descent, and pledges that Soto will fight "to expand Medicare, for better schools, for immigration reform."
● FL-11: Rep. Dan Webster, who is running in a safely red seat that's almost completely new to him, is out with his second spot ahead of the Aug. 30 primary. Webster is shown at a picnic with his family as the candidate brags that "[t]o Sandy and me, you don't just talk about principles, you live them. The strength of faith and family. The constitutional right to freedom." Webster goes on to criticize the government for spending too much and "promising what it can't deliver." Amusingly, after Webster declares the government is broken, the narrator identifies him as "Congressman Dan Webster." Running against the government while informing voters who are just learning about you that you're actually a member of the government is probably not a great strategy.
● FL-23: Law professor Tim Canova is out with his first two TV spots ahead of his Aug. 30 Democratic primary with incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Canova's first spot features a clip of Wasserman Schultz saying that it's "important to have debates so that candidates get an opportunity to talk about their ideas," before she dodges questions about whether she'd commit to debating her primary foe in several separate clips. Plenty of campaigns criticize their opponents for ducking debates, but it's an issue that rarely moves voters. While most people would probably agree that political debates are good, few people pay enough attention to House races to really care if they happen or not.
A second Canova ad features him criticizing how corporate interests "corrupt our government, because we the people don't show up to vote." The commercial doesn't mention Wasserman Schultz, though an image flashes by criticizing "career politicians." According to Politico, these ads are part of a $65,000 buy running through July 24.
● KS-01: The Club for Growth consistently spends big to help its friends in competitive House primaries, and they're coming to GOP Rep. Tim Huelskamp's aid. The Club's spot, which Politico says is part of a $200,000 buy, argues that the national debt is a crisis that physician Roger Marshall, Huelskamp's foe in the Aug. 2 primary, would make worse. The narrator accuses Marshall of backing a bill that "grows the debt by hundreds of billions. We already have too many in Congress who do that." The commercial never bothers to actually give any more information about this bill; the Club is just hoping that primary voters will hear "debt" and "Marshall" in the same sentence and get angry.
● NV-04: Freshman Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy has a tough task ahead of him if he wants to hold a seat that Obama carried 54-44, but his allies at the NRCC are arguing he can do it. Harper Polling gives Hardy a 38-36 lead over state Sen. Ruben Kihuen; however, they have Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton by 7 points (the memo doesn't include the actual presidential toplines). While Jon Ralston says the poll has "reasonable demographic breakdowns," it's incredibly hard to believe that the there will be anything like a 17-point swing towards Trump, especially in a seat with a large Hispanic voting bloc. Indeed, a recent Monmouth poll gave Clinton a 45-41 lead in Nevada; Obama carried the state 52-46.
● NY-01: Last week, Suffolk County finished tabulating its votes in the very close Democratic contest, and the absentee ballots secured victory for ex-Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. While Throne-Holst led venture capitalist Dave Calone by just 29 votes on election night, she widened her edge to 273 votes when all was said and done; Calone conceded on Friday and immediately endorsed his opponent. Throne-Holst will face freshman Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin in an eastern Long Island seat that Obama narrowly carried.
● NY-03: State of Politics reports that the NRCC has reserved $1.1 million to help state Sen. Jack Martins. This open Long Island seat backed Obama just 51-48, making it one of Team Red's few viable pickup opportunities in a year where they're mostly on the defensive. Martins faces ex-Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.
● TN-08: The 13-way Aug. 4 GOP primary for this safely red seat is coming up, and it's far from clear who has the edge. Wealthy physician George Flinn is bombarding the airwaves, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal says he's spent $510,000 on TV ads, far ahead of state Sen. Brian Kelsey's $134,000.
A recent Flinn ad features two women complaining that outsiders are funding the other candidates, and praising Flinn for being the only contender to say "'no' to special interest money." Flinn has spent big in past contests and gone nowhere: He recently spent $1.4 million in the 2014 Senate primary, taking only 5 percent statewide and just 14 percent in his native Shelby County. However, in a field this crowded, Flinn may only need a small plurality to win.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell recently went up with his first spot. Luttrell bemoans that "[o]ur nation's drowning in negative ads and dirty tricks from self-serving politicians," and he challenges his opponents to emulate him and run a campaign that's "100 percent positive." Luttrell then brags that he's cut budgets and kept the community safe. About a third of the seat lives in Shelby County, and more voters watch Memphis TV, so Luttrell likely started out with more name recognition than any of his opponents. Still, this is a pretty weak and unmemorable ad.
● TX-23: Ex-Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego is out with an Anzalone Liszt Grove poll giving him a strong 45-38 lead over freshman Republican Rep. Will Hurd. The same sample gives Hillary Clinton a 45-40 edge over Donald Trump in the 23rd. Romney carried the seat 51-48, but Obama took it 50-49 four years earlier. Given how toxic Trump is with Hispanic voters, a 5-point Clinton edge doesn't seem unreasonable. Gallego unseated a Republican incumbent 50-46 in 2012 and only lost to Hurd 50-48 during the 2014 GOP wave, so he has a history of running ahead of the ticket. However, Hurd is a strong fundraiser, and he won't be easy to unseat.
● Special Elections: It's been a long two months, but Johnny Longtorso has the goods on our first special election in a while:
Pennsylvania HD-168: This is an open Republican seat in Delaware County. Democrats have nominated Diane Cornman-Levy, a nonprofit executive, while Republicans have nominated Christopher Quinn, a Middletown councilman. This seat went 51-48 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
● International: Did you know that the Daily Kos International Elections Digest is part of a balanced Brexit? You'll want to read our July edition for a complete rundown on absolutely every facet of last month's stunning vote in the U.K. in favor of leaving the European Union, a choice that immediately sent shockwaves through global politics, with innumerable short- and long-term consequences. In our latest newsletter, we discuss why voters chose Brexit; what it'll mean for Britain's trade relations; how it's impacted U.K. politics; and how it's even affecting political currents on the Continent. We also have roundups of election results in many other countries, including Australia, Spain, and Peru. Check it out today.