● WI-Sen: While Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has trailed in the polls in his rematch with Democrat Russ Feingold, Republicans sounded prepared to spend big to try and help him win in the fall. However, Team Red appears to have finally decided that Johnson is just a poor investment. On Wednesday, the news broke that Freedom Partners Action Fund, a group close to the Koch brothers, had canceled their $2.2 million fall TV reservation. Freedom Partners soon explained that they "are realigning our television advertising strategy to ensure maximum impact across key Senate races." That's sort of like breaking up with someone by telling them you are "strategically redeploying to another lover."
Only the day before, the NRSC confirmed that, while they weren't canceling their own ads, they would be pushing their reservation from August and September to the final three weeks of the contest. While the group said they were only changing the timing of their investment, it's a pretty dire sign for Johnson that his allies plan to only run ads during the last weeks of the race. Johnson already trails Feingold in cash-on-hand $7.2 million to $6.3 million. Johnson is wealthy, but he hasn't poured his own money into his re-election campaign: We'll see if Johnson's calculation changes now that his own party has essentially cut him loose.
CO-Sen: Over a month ago, NRSC chair Roger Wicker told reporters at the Republican National Convention that his committee would in fact endorse Darryl Glenn, the GOP's nominee against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado. But at the time, Wicker "wouldn't say when the official endorsement would come," according to the National Journal, and here we are, in late August, with no endorsement issued.
● CO-Sen: El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn may have delivered a rip-snorter of a speech at the Republican National Convention earlier this week ("Somebody with a nice tan needs to say this: All lives matter!" declared Glenn, who is African American), but the NRSC is still keeping its distance. The National Journal reports that Sen. Roger Wicker told reporters earlier this week that his committee would endorse Glenn … at some unspecified point in the future. (Nov. 9?) And at the same briefing, the NRSC's executive director, Ward Baker, still wouldn't say whether the committee would spend any money on the race, claiming, "We don't talk about internal strategy." Weak.
● FL-Sen: Rep. Patrick Murphy is up with his first TV spot ahead of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary, and he's wasting no time utilizing his most prominent supporter. Right off the bat, President Obama tells the camera, "With all that's at stake, we need Patrick Murphy in the Senate."
Obama goes on to promote Murphy as a progressive who has fought special interests, and he advises the viewer not to believe the negative attacks coming from those special interests. Obama concludes by saying, "I count on Patrick Murphy, you can too." The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC also recently went up with a spot touting Obama's support for Murphy, though it didn't feature any footage of the president. Murphy faces fellow Rep. Alan Grayson next month.
On the GOP side, rich guy Carlos Beruff recently launched a spot arguing that Sen. Marco Rubio was too liberal for the party of Donald Trump. Beruff evidently likes his ad, since Politico reports that he's throwing another $900,000 behind it. Polls show Beruff badly trailing Rubio.
● LA-Sen: For months, Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy has been sitting on almost $3 millions in state campaign money he couldn't find a way to use for his Senate campaign. By law, Kennedy couldn't just send it directly to his federal campaign, and while he planned to just donate it to an allied super PAC, that proved to be a bit tougher than expected. In a late March memo on behalf of an unidentified client, Republican attorney Ben Ginsberg argued that transferring non-federal campaign money into a super PAC for a federal race was not legal; while an unnamed attorney for Kennedy disputed this interpretation, the money still never went to Make Louisiana Proud, the super PAC that was set up to help Kennedy's Senate bid.
But Kennedy appears to have found a way around the issue. Make Louisiana Proud has folded, and Kennedy's team says he's donated "a substantial amount" of his state campaign cash to ESAFund, a group formally known as Ending Spending Action Fund. Ending Spending, which was largely funded by GOP mega donor Joe Ricketts, played a major role in the 2014 elections in several key contests, and it looks like they'll be spending for Kennedy this cycle. Kennedy faces several opponents from both parties in the November jungle primary.
● OH-Sen: The Senate Majority PAC is once again rolling out Segway Guy to lambaste GOP Sen. Rob Portman. Last time, our be-suited Segway rider visited Wall Street; this time, he wheels past the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, where he says they're "probably giving Rob Portman an award for being China's best senator" on account of his support for various trade deals. We've expressed our serious displeasure with this theme in the past, and this ad's no different, featuring repeated shots of the Chinese flag waving gently in the breeze and, once again, the same photo of Portman and a Chinese trade official that appeared in a previous SMP ad.
And Portman's Democratic opponent, ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, is only compounding matters. Strickland's campaign has been handing out fortune cookies at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, with the message "Rob Portman: The Best Senator China's Ever Had" written inside. When asked by a reporter whether the cookies were racially insensitive, Strickland flailed awkwardly, stammering, "No. Ah, no. No. Ah, no. You know, you know, when I say he's the best senator that China's ever had, I'm not saying anything bad about China," before aides eventually pulled him away from the awkward encounter.
Whatever he may believe, though, Strickland doesn't get to decide whether or not his message is offensive. As one Chinese-American activist explained, Strickland is "banking on people's negative feelings about China, and that affects us here as Chinese Americans." That's a terrible thing to do to people you are seeking to represent. Put another way, could you imagine an ad that declared someone Israel's best senator? Everyone would flip out, and rightly so. It's no more okay to use any other country.
Especially in light of Donald Trump's terrifyingly invidious campaign, this kind of race-baiting is beneath the Democrats. If international trade agreements are unpopular in Ohio (and they very probably are), then by all means use them to attack Portman. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do so, and this isn't the right way.
● IN-Gov, IN-04, IN-05: The state GOP's 22-member central committee will pick a new gubernatorial nominee on the morning of July 26 to replace vice presidential candidate Mike Pence. Interested candidates need to submit their names by 10 AM Eastern on Saturday, 72 hours before the committee will meet. Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, Reps. Todd Rokita and Susan Brooks, and state Sen. Jim Tomes have already declared, and state Auditor Suzanne Crouch has expressed interest. And on Tuesday, Indiana GOP Chair Jeff Cardwell told Howey Politics that he's also considering running for the job himself. (Howey offers more details in the July 20 edition of his Daily Wire.)
According to the Indy Star, candidates need at least 12 of the 22 votes to take the nomination. If no one takes a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated until someone claims the necessary 12 votes. The winner will face Democrat John Gregg, the former speaker of the state House, in November.
Because Indiana law prevents anyone from appearing on the general election ballot twice, Rokita and Brooks both needed to officially drop their re-election campaigns to be considered by the committee. However, both members have confirmed that if they don't get picked, they'll run for their old seats again this year. The new GOP House nominees will be chosen by a caucus of local precinct chairs, and while a few Republicans have expressed interest in running, no one has actually said that they're willing to challenge either incumbent in the caucuses if it comes down to it. In Brooks' 5th District, Hamilton County Councilor Fred Glynn has announced that he plans to run if it's an open seat, but he says that he'll "reassess" if Brooks seeks re-election.
● NC-Gov: Democrat Roy Cooper is out with his second TV ad, and he's mostly still focusing on getting his name out rather than attacking GOP Gov. Pat McCrory. The commercials shows some spots in Cooper's home community in Nash County, as Cooper notes the streets he rode his bike, and the farm he worked at, the football field he played in, and the school where his mom was a teacher. Cooper notes that those places are still there, "But what we've lost is harder to see." Cooper says the election isn't about "one bad law," a not-very subtle reference to the state's infamous anti-LGBT HB2. He says the election is really about "bringing back our teachers, our jobs, and the companies that have left."
● VT-Gov: Ex-state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter, one of the three candidates in the Aug. 9 Democratic primary, is going up with a spot focusing on an uncommon campaign issue in Vermont: gun control. Minter narrates the ad and says that domestic violence happens every day, and that half of the incidents involve guns. Minter then calls for keeping "guns away from domestic abusers, and require background checks on all gun sales." Minter continues by saying that the gun lobby doesn't like her proposal, "and I'm the candidate for governor who's willing to talk about it. I won't back down from this fight."
While Vermont is a very blue state, it has a high rate of gun ownership and little in the way of gun laws. Both Minter's primary foes, ex-Sens. Matt Dunne and Peter Galbraith, have also called for tighter laws, but Minter's the first candidate to actually run an ad on the topic.
● CA-24: In response to a poll from Republican businessman Justin Fareed that showed him up 46-44 on Democrat Salud Carbajal, the DCCC has released a contradictory internal, courtesy of the Feldman Group, that finds Carbajal leading by a solid 49-39 margin. A key piece of information makes the D-Trip's poll much more believable than Fareed's: It includes numbers for the presidential race, where Hillary Clinton is beating Donald Trump by a 47-32 spread.
Barack Obama carried the 24th 54-43 in 2012, so Clinton's 15-point lead is very plausible. Fareed's poll, meanwhile, did not provide any presidential data all, a red flag that makes it impossible to evaluate whether the survey had a reasonable read on this fall's electorate. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race Lean Democratic, though so far as we're aware, major outside groups from both parties have yet to make any ad reservations here, which suggests both sides think this seat is likely to remain in Democratic hands.
● CA-25: Democrats are eager to put GOP Rep. Steve Knight's Los Angeles-area House seat in play, and a new in-house robopoll from the DCCC is designed to suggest that California's 25th District is indeed up for grabs. The D-Trip's survey finds Knight, a freshman, with a 46-40 lead on his Democratic opponent, attorney Bryan Caforio; on the generic congressional ballot (a useful question to examine, since both candidates aren't well-known), "Democrat" actually edges out "Republican" 45-44.
Most importantly of all, Hillary Clinton beats Donald Trump by a 41-36 margin, which is both plausible—Mitt Romney only won here 50-48—and at the same time a cause for optimism, since Caforio would very much like to ride Clinton's coattails (or Trump's anti-coattails) to victory. This is the first poll we've seen from either side in this race, so we'll have to see whether Republicans answer with their own data or remain silent.
● FL-04: Ex-Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford and lawyer Hans Tanzler III look like the main candidates in Aug. 30 primary for this safely red seat, with state Rep. Lake Ray lagging and St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure barely registering in a recent poll. McClure is going up with his first ad, and it features caricatures of John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer. (Sorry, you didn't make the cut, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.)
The narrator declares that "[t]he Washington insiders are hoping Florida sends another member to their exclusive club. They want Hans Tanzler, John Rutherford, or Lake Ray, career politicians that don't care about Florida." (And yes, each Republican candidate gets their own badly-animated figure.) The rest of the spot promotes McClure as an outsider who's "more concerned with building the wall than building a fraternity." Wait, is this ad arguing that Pelosi and Boehner are members of some co-ed frat?
Rutherford is out with a much less-ridiculous TV ad. Rutherford tells the audience that while "Washington failed to protect our borders and failed to get serious about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism," he'd different. A fast-speaking narrator then tries to cram a ton of information about Rutherford's record on terrorism into a short amount of time.
McClure said he wouldn't seek donations for his campaign, and he's kept his word: While McClure loaned his campaign $100,000, he reports raising just $450.00 from donors. Rutherford narrowly out-raised Tanzler, the son of a former Jacksonville mayor, but Tanzler lent his campaign $201,000, and he holds a large $386,000 to $256,000 cash-on-hand edge over Rutherford. Ray raised just $69,000 from donors, but also lent himself $100,000.
● FL-10: Wealthy former state Democratic Party Chair Bob Poe is going up with his first primary spot in this safely blue Orlando seat. The camera pans over an AR-15 assault rifle as Poe explains that "[i]n the 30 seconds it takes to play this ad, it could spray a room with 300 bullets. Right now, someone can buy this assault weapon at a gun show with no background check. That's gotta stop." Poe pledges to fight for background checks, taking illegal guns off the streets, and banning assault weapons. The ad doesn't mention last month's Pulse shootings, and it probably doesn't need to.
Poe's main rival next month is ex-Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, the favorite of national Democrats. Poe has been almost completely self-funding his bid, and he's poured over $1.7 million of his own money into the race so far. At the end of June, Demings had a $504,000 to $386,000 cash-on-hand edge, but that's after Poe purchased a $737,000 TV reservation. State Sen. Geraldine Thompson is also running, but she's continued to raise and spend very little.
● HI-01: In very sad news, Democratic Rep. Mark Takai died on Wednesday at the age of 49. Takai had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, and though he later launched a campaign for re-election, he abandoned those plans in May after announcing his cancer had spread. Takai was first elected to the House less than two years ago to fill the seat left open by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate in 2014), handily winning the all-important Democratic primary over a crowded field. Prior to winning a seat in Congress, Takai had served in Hawaii's state House for two decades.
After he declined to run again this year, Hanabusa announced a comeback bid. No other notable candidates in either party wound up filing, and Hanabusa should win this dark blue seat easily. There may also be a special election to fill the remainder of Takai's term.
● MI-01: Former Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson looks like the easy favorite against underfunded 2014 nominee Jerry Cannon in the Aug. 2 primary for this competitive seat, but that's not stopping him from going up with his first spot. Johnson highlights how his family spent generations working as loggers, merchants, and machinists, "industries that made northern Michigan strong." Johnson then bashes corporations for moving jobs overseas and "risking our Social Security and Medicare on Wall Street's schemes."
Romney won this open seat 54-45, but Democrats are still strong downballot. Johnson is also one of Team Blue's stronger fundraisers, and House Majority PAC has reserved about $500,000 in fall airtime. The GOP has a contest between state Sen. Tom Casperson, who is backed by retiring Rep. Dan Benishek; ex-state Sen. Jason Allen, who lost the 2010 primary to Benishek by a slim margin; and retired Marine Corp Lt. Col. Jack Bergman. So far, none of the Republicans have raised much, though thanks to some self-funding, Bergman had more cash-on-hand than his primary rivals at the end of June. Johnson booked $420,000 in fall TV time a few months ago, which explains why he has just $246,000 on-hand.
● MN-03: National Democrats were elated when state Sen. Terri Bonoff kicked off her bid against Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen in a suburban Twin Cities seat that Obama carried 50-49, and Democratic groups have reserved airtime for the fall. However, a late June Bonoff poll from Victoria Research really just underscores how tough her task will be against Paulsen, who has won easily re-election four times.
The poll gives Hillary Clinton a massive 52-28 lead over Donald Trump and has a generic Democrat leading a generic Republican 42-34. However, the memo says that, after a "one positive paragraph description of each candidate" is read, Bonoff ties Paulsen 45-45. The initial ballot numbers were not read, which indicates that Paulsen started with a clear lead. If there's anything resembling a 25-point swing against the GOP in this seat and Paulsen still has the edge, that's a very good sign for the incumbent. And while Bonoff has a $565,000 warchest after her strong opening fundraising quarter, Paulsen still has a massive $3.2 million cash-on-hand, so he'll have an easier time getting his message out than Bonoff will.
● NY-21: Hoo boy. We've seen plenty of Democrats try to tie their Republican opponents to Donald Trump, but it seems safe to say that retired Army Col. Mike Derrick is the first Democrat anywhere link himself to Trump. In a new TV ad, Derrick's first of the campaign, a narrator asks, "Who's right? Donald Trump, who says kill the TPP trade agreement, or Elise Stefanik, who supports it?" Derrick himself then appears, declaring, "I don't support Trump, but he's right that we need to stop the job-killing TPP deal and take on both parties in Washington." Well, that's certainly one way to get attention.
Few people watching the ad (which is reportedly backed by just a "five-figure buy") will know that "TPP" stands for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, since it's never spelled out. But "trade agreements" are something voters are familiar with, and many have negative feelings about them. Indeed, the spot has put Stefanik on the defensive: The congresswoman says she hasn't yet come out in favor of TPP but is merely "reviewing" the legislation. However, she acknowledge voting in favor of a measure known as "trade promotion authority"—formerly called "fast-track," because it would smooth the way for TPP by prohibiting Congress from amending or filibustering trade deals.
This is a rather fine distinction that Stefanik will have a hard time making to voters, and it's one we've seen cause trouble for other members of Congress in competitive races, such as Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in California's 7th District. Fortunately for Stefanik, while Barack Obama did carry this district 52-46 four years ago, it's still historically Republican, and she remains the favorite. But if she really wanted to take the issue off the table, she could simply announce her opposition to TPP. Instead, she's letting her opponent out-Trump her. It may be unpleasant to see a Democrat take this tack, but Derrick's already provoked a reaction and may yet draw some blood.
● TN-04: The Aug. 4 primary for this safely red seat is almost here, and Rep. Scott DesJarlais is going up with a negative spot, which the Times Free Press says is his first TV ad, aimed at attorney Grant Starrett. The narrator, sporting what sounds like a fake British accent in a parody of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," calls Starrett "Mr. California," and a "28-year old trust fund millionaire."
As shots of stereotypical California locations flash by and paparazzi take pictures of a caricature of Starrett, the narrator goes on to argue that Starrett grew up in a California mansion and "moved to the 4th District last year just to run for Congress, using inherited fortune and out of state cash to join the club in Washington." (Starrett moved to Tennessee a few years ago to attend Vanderbilt Law.) The rest of the ad praises DesJarlais as a conservative who isn't part of the DC establishment.
A little while ago, Starrett pledged that he would make the campaign about "policy differences" and not "personal issues," a questionable tactic given DesJarlais' history. Back in 2012, voters learned that while DesJarlais was a practicing physician, he had an affair with one of his patients whom he later tried to pressure into having an abortion. In his new ad, Starrett seems to be trying to come as close as possible to talking about DesJarlais' scandal without actually talking about DesJarlais' scandal.
As sinister music plays, a quote from DesJarlais appears on the screen saying, "As far as when life begins, I don't know that I have the answer." As a sonogram appears, the narrator then argues that DesJarlais "failed to hold Planned Parenthood accountable," and ends by declaring, "you pay for abortion. You've been betrayed by DesJarlais." Starrett appears at the end saying he believes "life begins at conception, and your money shouldn't go to end a child's life." A different commercial also argues that DesJarlais voted for military cuts.
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.