● IN-Sen: On Wednesday, two days after CNN reported that he'd launch a surprise comeback bid for the Senate, former Sen. Evan Bayh finally kicked off his campaign to reclaim his old seat. CNN updated its original story to say that Bayh's announcement had been "delayed because of logistics," but an article in the Indianapolis Star said that Bayh hadn't yet "made up his mind," according to an unnamed "Democratic political operative familiar with Bayh's thinking."
Whatever the reason for the delay, Bayh's finally in, but he missed an opportunity to capitalize on the huge press attention he received Monday to unveil a new website, solicit donations, and ask volunteers to sign up to join his cause. Yes, he's got $9 million in the bank and name recognition second only to Jesus, but Bayh, as we've noted, hasn't actually run for any office since 2004, and he has just four months to put together a winning campaign against GOP Rep. Todd Young. After such a long layoff, he shouldn't be taking anything for granted.
And it's not as though Bayh doesn't have considerable negatives of his own that Republicans will be eager to exploit. In addition to his work as a lobbyist after leaving the Senate in 2010, Politico points out that Bayh owns two homes in DC and one in Florida, each worth over $2 million. He does have a small condo in Indianapolis—valued at $59,000. As observers of Hoosier politics well know, residency issues utterly hobbled former Sen. Dick Lugar's re-election bid in 2012, leading to his massive defeat in that year's GOP primary. Bayh will have to make sure those same kind of attacks don't gain traction.
Reportedly, private Democratic internal polls "show Bayh with a double-digit lead," but no one's made any of that data public. It's certainly possible that Bayh, at the moment, is in a favorable position vis-à-vis Young on paper, but there's an old adage in baseball: This is why they play the games. So, too, with politics—this is why they hold elections. Bayh's delayed start might just be a momentary hiccup that everyone soon forgets about, but with the stakes so high, he shouldn't take any chances with this race.
Just how much Bayh appreciates his current situation is unclear. On the one hand, a paywalled report at Politico says he's already putting his considerable war chest to use with a flight of TV ads starting Thursday. But Bayh's first interview of the race, conducted by the Indianapolis Star, is worrisome. Just about every part of it feels discouraging. When asked about his housing situation, his answer was particularly painful: Bayh said he and his wife "spent the last couple of nights at our Indianapolis home, and we like it." So where have they been the last six years? Then he protested too much—far too much:
I am a proud Hoosier. Can I sing you the Indiana University fight song? Would that help? I'm not very good at that, but I'd be happy to if that would help establish my bona fides.
No, no it wouldn't. Bayh further revealed that he has not yet quit his jobs at a lobbying firm and a private equity fund—though, phew, he did at least drop the Fox News gig! But how can you run for Senate knowing you'll get asked endless questions about your business activities while still on the payroll of one of the biggest lobbying shops in Washington? At least get this stuff sorted before you enter the race, no? Sigh.
● AZ-Sen: The pro-John McCain group Arizona Grassroots Action is up with a TV spot aimed at ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward, McCain's opponent in the Aug. 30 GOP primary. The National Journal's Karyn Bruggeman succinctly sums up the commercial as, "Greetings! A bunch of angry men are here to tell you that John McCain's female primary opponent is weak," and that's exactly how it comes across.
Several veterans, all men, step forward and blast Ward, calling her someone who's "weak, and doesn't have the guts to take the fight to ISIS." They go on to accuse her of supporting a bill that would have made it tougher for state law enforcement to counter terrorism, and joining "liberals, like Bernie Sanders, in opposing a bill funding our military." There is no word on the size of the buy.
McCain's own campaign is also up with a negative TV ad, but they target Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick instead. The narrator argues that Kirkpatrick voted to weaken the border, and "votes with DC liberals nearly 90 percent." The commercial then praises McCain as a champion of border security.
● FL-Sen: Wealthy homebuilder Carlos Beruff badly trails Sen. Marco Rubio in every single released poll of the Aug. 30 GOP primary, and if Beruff's going to have a shot, he's going to need to spend a lot of his own money making Rubio unacceptable to primary voters. So it comes as no surprise that Beruff is launching a $2 million two-week ad buy, and he goes directly after Rubio.
The narrator asks why Rubio refuses to support Donald Trump, wondering if it's "just sour grapes because Florida chose Trump instead of Rubio? Or is it because Trump opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants, while Rubio supports amnesty? Hmm." The narrator goes on to ask if maybe it's because Trump, unlike Rubio, wants a "temporary ban on Middle Eastern immigrants," or that Trump wants to secure the borders. Beruff comes in at the end and makes it clear that he supports Trump and "will help him secure our borders."
● Senate: Three different academic pollsters released surveys of five different Senate races on Wednesday, along with presidential numbers for each state as well. Here's a rundown of all the data:
CO-Sen: Monmouth: Michael Bennet (D-inc): 48, Darryl Glenn (R): 35 (Clinton 48-35)
IA-Sen: Marist: Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 52, Patty Judge (D): 42 (Clinton 42-39)
OH-Sen: Marist: Rob Portman (R-inc): 44, Ted Strickland (D): 44 (39-39 tie)
PA-Sen: Marist: Katie McGinty (D): 47, Pat Toomey (R-inc): 44 (Clinton 45-36)
WI-Sen: Marquette: Russ Feingold (D): 49, Ron Johnson (R-inc): 44 (Clinton 45-41)
Both Monmouth and Marist are exploring virgin territory; only Marquette has polled its race before. Last month, Feingold held a much wider 51-42 lead on Johnson, but there's no clear reason for the shift. Both sides have been advertising on TV, but neither candidate's favorability ratings have budged. The presidential race tightened as well, though, from a 42-37 lead for Hillary Clinton in June, though Marquette doesn't think FBI Director James Comey's announcement about Clinton's email practices had anything to do with it, so it's hard to say what's happened here.
Meanwhile, Democrats will be quite chuffed with McGinty's numbers in Pennsylvania, where she's trailed Toomey in every other poll. Of course, if 14 polls in a row show you behind and one shows you ahead, you shouldn't get too excited about that one new poll, but we'll have to see if this is an aberration or a sign of things to come. Over in Iowa, by contrast, Marist's results are identical to those that Monmouth released earlier this week, though earlier polls from PPP and Loras College have found a closer race.
As for Ohio, it's right in line with the polling averages, while we have little to compare to in seldom-polled Colorado, though a recent survey from Republican pollster Harper Polling put Bennet on top by just a 46-40 margin. All in all, these are generally positive numbers for Democrats, but as always, it's more important to looking at the polling aggregates than any one single poll of a race.
● DE-Gov: Filing closed in Delaware on Tuesday, making Louisiana the only state left where major party candidates can still file for Congress this cycle. The state has a list of candidates who face primary opposition here, and a list of candidates who do not have any primary foes here.
Democratic Gov. Jack Markell is termed-out, and Rep. John Carney, who represents the whole state in the House, looks poised to succeed him. Carney narrowly lost the 2008 primary to Markell, but this time, he faces no primary opposition. Team Red is fielding state Sen. Colin Bonini, who narrowly lost the 2010 treasurer race. There has been no recent polling here, but neither national party has shown any interest in spending here. Republicans have not won the governor's mansion since Mike Castle was re-elected in 1988, and that streak is likely to continue for a while longer. Daily Kos Elections currently rates the general as Likely Democratic, but it may go off the big board altogether before Election Day.
● WA-Gov: Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant, a Republican, is going up with his first TV spot. The 60-second commercial features some picturesque views of Washington, as Bryant is shown hiking and yearning for "a governor with a fresh perspective, who made government better, not bigger." Bryant goes on to advocate for a fiscally conservative, but conservationist, governor; Bryant goes on to talk up his business record. Bryant ends by saying that "after 32 years of one party controlling the governor's office, a fresh perspective would be healthy for Washington." Via National Journal, the Bryant campaign says their ad is running for six-figures statewide.
The commercial does not mention or really even indirectly attack Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee, whom Bryant is trying to unseat. A May poll for Bryant had Inslee up 43-36 and gave the incumbent a positive 41-29 favorable score, underscoring how tough Bryant's task will be in this blue state. Washington's top-two primary is Aug. 2 and while there's no real doubt that both Inslee and Bryant will advance, it's in Bryant's best interest to do well next month. In the past, Washington's top-two primary has done a pretty good job predicting how each party will do in November in key races. A good performance against Inslee would likely encourage GOP donors and outside groups to invest in Bryant, while a poor showing would make it even tougher to get support.
● DE-AL: Three major Democrats are competing in the Sept. 13 primary to succeed gubernatorial candidate John Carney. Former gubernatorial aide Sean Barney, an Iraq War veteran, has the support of VoteVets, while former state Labor Secretary Lisa Blunt Rochester is backed by EMILY's List. State Sen. Bryan Townsend is also in the mix. It's far from clear who has the edge in the primary, but this seat is safely blue.
● FL-09: State Sen. Darren Soto and former congressional aide Susannah Randolph have each earned the backing of labor groups ahead of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary, and the SEIU has thrown its support behind Randolph.
● GA-03: Dentist Drew Ferguson recently went up with a spot featuring a local county sheriff denouncing state Sen. Mike Crane, Ferguson's opponent in the July 26 runoff for this safely red seat. A few months ago, Crane, an opponent of no-knock warrants, told a crowd that if police "come to my house, kick down my door—if I have an opportunity, I will shoot you dead. And every one of you should do the same," and Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley argued that "telling people it's ok to shoot police officers will get my people killed." (The Ferguson campaign says the ad was prepared long before the Dallas police shooting.) Crane's campaign is hoping that Ferguson's spot went too far, and he's going up with a response ad
Crane's commercial blasts "establishment politician Drew Ferguson," with the narrator arguing that "words can't describe how despicable and disgusting Ferguson's attack is." The ad then features pictures of Crane's father and uncle in police uniforms as the narrator adds that Crane "supports the work of police officers, not just because they keep our families safe, but because police officers are his family, too." The spot ends with a picture of Crane's father in uniform holding a baby, presumably the candidate.
Meanwhile, we have our first poll of the race from Clout Research on behalf of the blog zpolitics, and it gives Ferguson a 41-35 edge. Ferguson shouldn't be too enthusiastic about the results, though. Clout is the successor to Wenzel Strategies, which was one of the worst polling firms in the business.
● KS-01: Days after the Club for Growth launched a $200,000 buy in support of GOP Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Politico reports that Ending Spending is dropping $100,000 on a commercial opposing the tea partying congressman in the Aug. 2 primary. This is the second time that Ending Spending, a conservative organization funded by wealthy Republican donor Joe Ricketts, has gotten involved in a GOP House primary this cycle. Last month, the group made a belated and unsuccessful attempt to help establishment favorite Michael Roberson win in a swingy Nevada House seat, and they're wisely getting started earlier this time.
The narrator argues that Huelskamp gave up his integrity and "went Washington, voting against the Farm Bill and opposing crop insurance." The ad goes on to note that Huelskamp got kicked off the Agriculture Committee, as a TV anchor says that this is the first time in 150 years that Kansas doesn't have a representative there. Farming is a huge part of this rural seat's economy, and going after Huelskamp on agriculture is probably the most effective way to attack him. Huelskamp has a horrible relationship with both local agriculture interests (the Kansas Farm Bureau recently endorsed his primary foe, physician Roger Marshall), and the House leadership.
● LA-01: Back in January of last year, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke flirted with challenging House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a fellow Republican, in the November jungle primary for Louisiana's safely red 1st Congressional District. Duke kept silent about a possible bid until this week, when he told the Daily Beast that he's "very seriously set up an exploratory committee," and expects to decide in a few days. Louisiana's filing deadline is July 22.
Scalise, who reportedly once labeled himself "David Duke without the baggage," earned some ugly headlines in December of 2014 when it emerged that he had given a speech back in 2002 to a group run by Duke. Scalise claimed he didn't know the organization had anything to do with the infamous neo-Nazi, and he denounced all that Duke stands for. Duke was not happy about Scalise's response, and Duke now says that the murder of five police officers in Dallas has encouraged him to get in. Duke's not exactly being subtle about what type of campaign he'd run, saying that "[u]nless European Americans stand up, they are going to lose everything they care about in this country." Duke also has emerged as an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump, and Trump has been reluctant to denounce him.
Back in the late 1980s and throughout 1990s, Duke emerged as a notable figure in Louisiana GOP politics, to the dismay of state and national GOP leaders. Duke won a state House seat in 1989 in suburban New Orleans, but lost his 1990 U.S. Senate bid and 1991 gubernatorial race. As recently as 1999, Duke came close to making the runoff for the old version of this congressional district. However, as we noted last year, Duke won't have an easy time unseating Scalise if he gets in. Back in the 2004 open-seat race here, Duke's longtime ally Roy Anderson ran (as a Democrat!) and could only muster up 7 percent of the vote.
Duke himself doesn't exactly seem beloved either: A February 2013 PPP poll gave him a 9-77 unfavorable rating statewide with Republicans. It's also worth noting that in the faithful 1991 gubernatorial race between Duke and Democrat Edwin Edwards, Duke did poorly in the areas that make up the 1st District (he even lost the very conservative St. Tammany Parish, an impressive feat for a Republican).
And if Duke does take on Scalise, he can't count on a low-turnout primary carrying him to victory. In Louisiana, all the candidates will run together in November during the high-turnout presidential contest. In theory, Duke could keep Scalise from taking a majority and force him into a December runoff, but that won't be easy. Scalise has a long career in suburban New Orleans politics, and he doesn't appear to have alienated enough conservative voters to cost him re-election against any opponent. And as much as the area's Democratic voters dislike Scalise, they'd almost certainly unify behind him in a runoff in the face of a Duke victory. They even could reuse an unofficial Edwards slogan from 1991: "Vote for the Lizard, not the Wizard."
● Special Elections: Barring a big surprise, Tuesday brought us our last special legislative election before November. Johnny Longtorso gives us the goods:
Pennsylvania HD-168: Republicans had little trouble holding this 51-48 Romney seat. Christopher Quinn defeated Democrat Diane Cornman-Levy by a 58-42 margin.
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.