● MO-Gov: The unpredictable four-way fight for Missouri's Republican gubernatorial nomination is on Tuesday, and Team Blue is making a last-minute move to influence the outcome. On Friday, the Democratic Governors Association launched an ad, which the National Journal says is running for at least $671,000, hitting retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, who has led in several polls of the primary. The commercial shows a woman on the screen as the narrator asks, "What does this victim of human trafficking have to do with your vote for governor? Well, a man accused of abusing her for 13 years gave Eric Greitens $1 million." The spot goes on to say that Greitens not only refused to return the donation from his "single largest contributor," he even said he was "honored" by it.
The spot is referring to Silicon Valley venture capitalist Michael Goguen, who made that $1 million donation to Greitens. As we noted back in March, Goguen is being sued by a woman named Amber Laurel Baptiste, who has accused him of breaching an agreement to pay her $40 million as recompense, she says, for making her his sex slave over a 13-year period. Baptiste claims that Goguen had promised to rescue her from the human traffickers who had brought her to the U.S. (the two met at a strip club) but alleges the opposite happened. The two initially reached a $40 million settlement, but Goguen only paid a quarter of the amount; Baptiste then took him to court for the rest.
A story like that is naturally going to overshadow any race, especially given the size of Goguen's contribution. Naturally, the donation came up at a GOP debate a few months ago, and Greitens' primary foes insisted he send the money to a worthy charity. However, Greitens refused, saying that "unlike career politicians, I'm not going to convict someone in the court of public opinion." On Friday, Greitens denounced national Democrats for the ad and reaffirmed his belief that since Goguen is, in effect, innocent until proven guilty, he still would not part ways with the money.
But Goguen was back in the news even before the DGA launched its new offensive. At a recent primary debate, wealthy businessman John Brunner told Greitens that he "refuse[s] to be lectured by a guy who took $1 million from the owner of a teenage sex slave." Goguen then proceeded to sue Brunner for his remark and other social media posts, arguing that Brunner "knowingly and maliciously spread demonstrable lies."
Despite this ugly story hanging over Greitens, the DGA's move is a good indicator that it fears that he'll be Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster's toughest foe in November. Greitens has heavily emphasized his military career and argued that he's a political outsider in his ads, and he recently launched yet another spot with that same message. While there have been no recent general election polls, Team Blue may believe that Greitens' background and connections would make him the strongest GOP candidate.
● IL-Sen: A super PAC backing GOP Sen. Mark Kirk called Independent Voice for Illinois is running a new ad attacking Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth over her support for admitting Syrian refugees, claiming they're a Trojan horse for ISIS—a message Kirk himself has run ads on previously. We've already expressed our extreme disgust at this kind of fear mongering in the past; we're content to rest on what we've previously said. There's no clear word on the full size of the buy, but the PAC had $1.3 million cash-on-hand at the end of June.
● MO-Sen: A new poll from Mason-Dixon shows a close race for Senate in Missouri, with GOP Sen. Roy Blunt resting atop a mere 47-43 lead over Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander. Though surprising close, that margin is actually very similar to one found in a recent PPP poll, which placed Blunt ahead 41-38.
However, Mason-Dixon also has Hillary Clinton edging Donald Trump 41-40, which is very hard to believe. While Obama focused on the Show Me State in 2008 and narrowly lost it, his campaign ignored Missouri four years later, and Mitt Romney easily carried it by 9 points. So far, neither Clinton nor her allies have made much of an effort to flip the state's 10 electoral votes, a good indication that they don't expect to be competitive here.
Other recent polls also show Trump easily taking the state. PPP had Trump ahead 46-36, and a SurveyUSA poll (which, bizarrely, didn't ask about the Senate race), had him up by an almost identical 47-37 spread. So either PPP or Mason-Dixon has to be wrong about one race or the other, but PPP has an incomparably stronger track record and is also buttressed here by SUSA, as well as the Clinton campaign's moves, so they're more likely to be in the right.
● FL-01: A super PAC with the terribly lame name of North Florida Neighbors is airing a new ad on behalf of state Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of eight Republicans running in the August primary for this dark red open seat. The spot praises Gaetz for supporting various conservative priorities, saying that, among other things, he'll "end policies that coddle terrorists … and kill them." Dun dun dun! We haven't seen any polls here in a long time, but Gaetz's main competition is almost certainly state Sen. Greg Evers.
● FL-04: Attorney and wannabe cowboy Hans Tanzler is running a new ad slamming his chief opponent in the GOP primary, former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, as, of course, a "liberal" who "grew government spending. Fought for higher taxes. And opposed the NRA." Rutherford, claims Tanzler, "also made Jacksonville a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants." The only two polls of the race have found Rutherford ahead, so it makes that Tanzler would want to go after him. But for all his posturing on guns, the NRA just endorsed a third candidate, state Rep. Lake Ray, who, as we've noted in the past, is best-known for having the most Florida name ever since the late lamented Gator von Epcot.
● FL-09: Compounding Alan Grayson's disastrous week is a harshly negative piece in Politico about the race to succeed him, where Grayson is supporting his new wife, former pharmaceutical lobbyist Dena Grayson, over his former district director, Susannah Randolph. (There's a third Democrat running as well, state Sen. Darren Soto.) The article pulls together many threads, so it's not amenable to easy summarization, but a key facet involves claims that Grayson stooped to characteristically ugly tactics in an effort to force Randolph, his one-time heir apparent, out of the race.
So despised is Grayson that these charges are being leveled on the record by fellow members of Congress. Lois Frankel, who represents a district in south Florida, said Grayson promised to defeat Randolph, saying his then-fiancée would soon share his name and that he'd "spend a lot of money on television." Other unnamed sources say Grayson called Randolph a "liar" and tried to "torpedo" Randolph with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose endorsement she sought (and eventually earned). One member of the caucus, California Rep. Jared Huffman, was scathing, saying: "Grayson is singularly unpersuasive in our caucus because he's so terrible. He is our party's Donald Trump." Damn.
The whole piece is worth reading in full, though, particularly because it appears that Grayson is concentrating on his wife's race even as his own primary for Senate looms in just a month. Perhaps Grayson, who's been losing endorsements, consultants, and staff in the wake of domestic violence allegations by his ex-wife, realizes his own statewide ambitions are dead and is refocusing to keep his family in office by whatever means necessary, but Grayson is not particularly known for his fluency with reality.
● KS-01: Ending Spending is out with one more ad against Rep. Tim Huelskamp ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary. The commercial stars a farmer identified as Tom Willis, who says that Huelskamp "lied to Kansas farmers, voted against the Farm Bill, and even threatened me and my company," and denounces him as a "20-year politician" who isn't even a real farmer. Willis also reminds viewers that local agriculture groups are supporting physician Roger Marshall. Politico says that with this ad, Ending Spending has spent $1 million in this contest against Huelskamp, a tea partier who has an awful relationship with the GOP establishment.
● MN-02: The GOP primary for Minnesota's swing 2nd District, left open by the retirement of Rep. John Kline, is just over a week away, but one contender appears to have thrown in the towel early. Former state Sen. John Howe spent less that $2,000 between July 1 and July 20 and has also now paid himself back $250,000 of the $643,000 he loaned his campaign. During the same time period, businesswoman Darlene Miller, the candidate establishment Republicans are praying prevails, raised $19,000, spent $65,000, and had $164,000 left over for the stretch run.
Meanwhile, the guy the GOP should really be worried about, radio shock jock Jason Lewis, pulled in only $16,000, spent $37,000, and has just $107,000 left in the bank. But Lewis, infamous for his sexist and racist remarks on the air, has much greater appeal to the conservative id, as shown by the fact that he won the endorsement of delegates at the state party's convention earlier this year. He's a poor fit for this district, though, and if he emerges as the nominee, he'll immediately get slammed by Democrat Angie Craig and her enormous $1.8 million war chest. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race a Tossup.
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.