● FL-Sen: Marco Rubio's humiliating attempt to embrace Donald Trump has now been consummated. A few days after Rubio declared that "[w]e have to make sure that Donald wins," Trump told supporters at a rally in Florida, "I endorsed Marco. He endorsed me. Go for Marco!" Before Rubio made his infamous about-face and decided to run for re-election, Trump had urged him to do so on Twitter, but this is far more explicit, and since it was in person rather than online, it makes for much better fodder for Democratic attack ads.
It's also a kiss-off to self-funding businessman Carlos Beruff, who has berated Rubio non-stop for failing to adequately support Trump—though Trump probably has little idea who Beruff is. The same is true of most primary voters, since a new survey from St. Pete Polls finds Rubio with a giant 55-22 lead on Beruff. Believe it or not, that's actually the closest that any pollster has shown the race, but it's still far from close. Beruff can keep spending his own money to hammer away at Rubio, but with his chief line of attack seriously undermined, it's hard to see how he has a way forward.
However, even though Beruff may have just gotten kneecapped, Rubio has a bruising general election to look forward to, and Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy has just fired off the first warning shot. In a new TV ad, Murphy blasts Rubio for owning the worst voting record in the Senate, saying that while "people are working hard just to get by" in Florida, "in Washington, Marco Rubio stopped showing up for work." Murphy then links himself tightly to President Obama as a photo of the two appears on screen, saying he'll work to protect Social Security and a woman's right to choose.
While it might seem strange or even concerning that Murphy is looking toward November when he still has a primary to worry about, the situation has shifted in his favor on the home front.
After more than a year of static polling showing the Democratic nomination a tossup, Murphy has finally broken the race open with less than four weeks to go before primary day. A new survey from St. Pete Polls finds Murphy leading fellow Rep. Alan Grayson 45-20, by far the biggest advantage either candidate has sported this year. While Grayson has seen his campaign suffer badly in recent weeks following accusations from his ex-wife that he physically abused her, the more likely explanation for this new gap is Murphy's dominance on the airwaves, and in particular, ads featuring endorsements from Obama and Joe Biden.
Not only have the Murphy campaign and the Senate Majority PAC run spots showcasing the president and vice president, but a pro-Murphy super PAC called Floridians for a Strong Middle Class just threw down another $520,000 to simply re-air SMP's own ad. That suggests this is an effective message, and it ought to be: The vast majority of Democrats have high opinions of Obama and Biden.
Grayson, meanwhile, is reportedly running an ad claiming that Murphy is "looking to cut Social Security," but we can find neither hide nor hair of it online. And it may be difficult to find on TV, too, since there's no way Grayson can advertise as heavily since his warchest is far smaller than Murphy's. But just how much smaller we don't actually know. Rather remarkably, even for Grayson, his campaign filed a second-quarter fundraising report that said it had spent a total of zero dollars between April and June.
The same report claimed that had raised just $55,000 for the quarter and finished with a feeble $484,000 on-hand, but obviously none of these numbers can be trusted. When Politico asked the Grayson campaign about this, it said that it had raised $1 million and had $400,000 left over, and that that it would submit a corrected report. That was on July 26, and the original report was filed on July 15, so we're coming up on three weeks in which Grayson has failed to properly disclose his campaign finances as required by law. And at the moment, that's far from his worst problem.
● IN-Sen: Politico reports that the NRSC will launch a $700,000 ad campaign from Aug. 8 to Sept. 4. Until now, the Koch brothers' Freedom Partners has been the only conservative group to run commercials since Democrat Evan Bayh unexpectedly got into the race for his old seat last month; the DSCC has also aired an ad here. Two weeks ago, the DSCC dropped a poll showing Bayh with a ginormous 54-33 lead over Republican Todd Young: Team Red hasn't released any contradictory results, which suggests that their own polls don't have Young doing particularly well either. However, the fact that both sides are still spending here indicates that neither national party thinks that Bayh has an insurmountable lead.
● MO-Sen: Secretary of State Jason Kander easily won the Democratic nod on Tuesday, and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt quickly welcomed him to the general election with a pair of TV ads that Politico says were funded in part by the NRSC. In the first commercial, the narrator argues that Kander and Hillary Clinton will expand Obamacare, and she also says that Kander voted for an energy tax. The second spot argues that Kander was caught "manipulating the language of ballot initiatives," which isn't a line of attack you usually see in Senate races. A pair of recent polls found Blunt with unexpectedly small leads over Kander, but national Democrats haven't reserved any airtime here yet.
● NH-Sen, AZ-Sen: Republican politics has pretty much turned into a giant fraternity hazing ritual these days, one where Brother Donald tells his pledges what scum they are, and they cry out, "Thank you, sir! May I have another!" After Arizona Sen. John McCain and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, both of whom face difficult re-election campaigns, spoke up for Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Trump predictably went off on both of them. Trump snorted, "I haven't endorsed McCain," and then went on some riff about how McCain "has not done a good job for the vets." McCain testily refused to discuss the matter further.
And as for Ayotte, Trump was even Trumpier. Behold his orange-ified weirdness:
"New Hampshire is one of my favorite places," Trump said. "You have a Kelly Ayotte who doesn't want to talk about Trump, but I'm beating her in the polls by a lot. You tell me. Are these people that should be representing us, okay? You tell me."
He continued: "I don't know Kelly Ayotte. I know she's given me no support—zero support—and yet I'm leading her in the polls. I'm doing very well in New Hampshire. We need loyal people in this country. We need fighters in this country. We don't need weak people. We have enough of them. We need fighters in this country. But Kelly Ayotte has given me zero support, and I'm doing great in New Hampshire."
To fact-check the one thing we can, Trump trails Hillary Clinton 41-40 in New Hampshire in the HuffPo polling average, while Ayotte leads her Democratic opponent, Gov. Maggie Hassan, 45-43. But that's beside the point. What really matters here is that despite having her party's train-wreck presidential nominee publicly slur her, Ayotte refused to revoke her support for Trump. Maybe there's some fine line she thinks she needs to walk between Trump lovers and Trump haters, but when a politician won't even stand up for herself, how does that look to voters?
Meanwhile, Hassan is airing a new TV ad, though she's staying positive. The spot features testimonials from New Hampshire business owners and executives praising Hassan for her stewardship of the state's economy, allowing their companies to grow. But we can expect that Hassan's allies will continue to throw punches at Ayotte.
● NV-Sen: AFSCME has launched a $1.4 million TV ad campaign that will last until Aug. 16. Their spot features several Nevada seniors saying that Republican Joe Heck wants to privatize Social Security, and they argue he's doing it at the behest of his Wall Street donors. Meanwhile, the group Majority Forward is throwing $250,000 behind a recent ad from the League of Conservation Voters that accused Heck of being in the pocket of "the big oil billionaire Koch brothers."
● PA-Sen: Days ago, ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, and it didn't take long for his group, Independence USA, to start its ad campaign. Their spot, which Politico says is part of a $750,000 campaign, praises the senator for supporting policies to institute background checks and to stop the sale of guns to people on the terror watch list.
● WI-Sen: Republican incumbent Ron Johnson is once again arguing that if Democrat Russ Feingold returns to the Senate, you and everyone you love will die. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration. Johnson's newest ad says that despite Feingold's tough talk on terrorism, he was the only senator to vote "against intelligence tools after 9/11" (in other words, Feingold opposed the Patriot Act), and that he also voted against special ops and terrorist surveillance.
● IN-Gov: While vice presidential candidate Mike Pence may have originally intended to transfer his entire $7 million warchest to Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who took his place as the GOP gubernatorial nominee, the plan hit a snag. Because Pence is now a federal candidate, he is the subject of new campaign finance rules, and it's unclear how much of the $7 million he can legally send to Holcomb. Last week, Pence transferred $1.25 million to Holcomb's fledgling campaign, but no one seems to know what will happen to the rest of the pile right now.
● MO-Gov: On Tuesday, retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens decisively won the GOP gubernatorial primary in Missouri. Greitens defeated rich guy John Brunner 35-25; Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and ex-U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway took 21 and 20 percent, respectively. Greitens will now face Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster in November in the battle to succeed termed-out Gov. Jay Nixon.
Greitens, who founded a non-profit for veterans, had never run for office before, but the former Bush White House fellow had some useful political connections. He raised plenty of money from wealthy allies and used it to run ad after ad stressing both his military background and his status as a political outsider. (In one memorable but disturbing spot, he fired a gun at an unseen target, causing it to explode.)
Greitens had his weaknesses, too: Greitens had been a Democrat until a few years ago and had even been approached by the DCCC about running for Congress in 2009, and his commitment to conservative values was questionable. But much like with Donald Trump, Greitens' opponents, led by the self-funding Brunner, failed to successfully make an issue of his background.
Greitens may have also gotten an inadvertent assist from the DGA, which tried to derail his campaign with a TV spot in the final days of the primary. The move indicated that Greitens was the guy Democrats least wanted to face, but it allowed him to counter with his own late ad declaring the "Obama machine" was out to get him. We'll never know for sure, but it's possible the DGA's ad backfired and helped propel Greitens to victory.
However, it's not actually clear that Greitens was the most formidable candidate the GOP had to offer. The only recent general election poll, a Mason-Dixon survey, showed Greitens trailing Koster by a brutal 52-33 margin (Kinder, by contrast, was behind just 47-46). It's not clear if Team Blue is just seeing very different numbers, or if they're worried that Greitens' fundraising ability, plus his lack of a record to run against, gives him the most upside. (For what it's worth, Mason-Dixon badly underestimated Greitens in the primary; the GOP group Remington Research, on behalf of the newsletter the Missouri Scout, correctly forecast Greitens' decisive win.)
However, Democrats do have one ready-made line of attack against their new opponent. Greitens' biggest backer, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist named Michael Goguen who gave the candidate $1 million, has been sued by a woman claiming he kept her as a sex slave for 13 years. Despite intense pressure to donate the money to charity, Greitens kept the contribution, arguing that Goguen is innocent until proven guilty. The DGA's late primary ad focused on the issue, and while it wasn't enough to deny Greitens the GOP nod, it may have more traction in the fall.
Republicans, though, aren't wasting any time going after Koster, as the RGA launched a TV campaign on Wednesday. In this new spot, the narrator argues that Koster gave pay raises to his staff while Missouri families were struggling and used taxpayer money to remodel his office and on flights. The good news for Koster is that he didn't need to dip deeply into his warchest before the primary, and he has the resources to immediately run ads of his own. However, Missouri infamously has no candidate donation limits, so a few generous contributors could help Greitens restock his warchest. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as a Tossup.
● NC-Gov: Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's new TV ad takes footage from Democrat Roy Cooper's latest spot. While Cooper's commercial showcased his roots in Nash County, McCrory's narrator argues that Cooper's real legacy is "taxes, unemployment, cuts in education, increased college tuition, [and] declining teacher pay." The narrator then argues that McCrory has the opposite record as Cooper.
● NJ-Gov: Next year's Democratic primary has been going on for a long time behind the scenes. While only wealthy former Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy has declared he's in, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop are positioning themselves to run, and several other legislators, most notable state Sen. Ray Lesniak, are considering. Asset manager Tom Byrne, the son of ex-Gov. Brendan Byrne (who served from 1974 to 1982), has also told Politico that he's "likely" to run. However, Byrne flirted with Senate runs in 2000 and 2008 but didn't get in. Byrne also took an appointment from GOP Gov. Chris Christie to serve on the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission, which did not go over well with local Democrats.
● AZ-01: Air Force veteran and 2014 9th District nominee Wendy Rogers is out with her first spot ahead of the crowded Aug. 30 GOP primary. After showing several pieces of violent footage, Rogers tells the viewer that they are at war. Rogers pledges to "shut down our border, cut off sanctuary cities, and stand up for the rule of law." The spot ends with a picture of Rogers with Donald Trump, an image that may play fine in the primary, but not so well in the general election for this 50-48 Romney seat.
● FL-09: State Sen. Darren Soto is going up with his second spot ahead of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. The commercial features a woman praising Soto for helping senior citizens like her mother by "making it easier for families to sue for neglect" and for helping to expose bad nursing homes.
● FL-10: Ex-Orlando Police Chief Val Demings has been doing well with unions, and she earned the backing of the SEIU this week. Demings is the favorite of national Democrats in the Aug. 30 primary for this safe seat.
● FL-18: Martin School Board member Rebecca Negron is out with another TV spot in the crowded GOP primary for this competitive seat. The commercial features a group of students shrugging when their teacher asks them what Congress does. Negron then shows up and says that Congress did nothing when pollution threatened the area or to deal with the debt or immigration. Negron stands in the suddenly empty classroom and pledges to "teach Washington a lesson our children already understand." That doesn't really make sense, since there probably aren't many members of Congress who think the institution is an awesome do-something machine.
Meanwhile, Negron is getting some help from Conservative Congress Now, a super PAC that Politico reports is primarily funded by the private prison company GEO Group; GEO Group has made big contributions to Florida Republican Senatorial Committee, which is led by the candidate's husband, incoming state Senate President Joe Negron. The ads are not available yet, but CCN has spent $216,000 so far on media placement (see here, here, and here).
● FL-19: Ex-Ambassador Francis Rooney is the latest Republican candidate to run an ad demonizing Syrian refugees, a theme we have expressed disgust for many times.
● FL-26: Back in May, businesswoman Annette Taddeo released a poll showing her badly losing the Democratic primary to ex-Rep. Joe Garcia by a 48-27 margin. Taddeo soon replaced much of her campaign staff and began airing ads, and her allies are arguing that this primary is winnable. On behalf of EMILY's List, GBA Strategies is out with a mid-July poll giving Garcia a 40-38 edge; Taddeo's ad campaign began days later. The memo says that among voters who know both candidates, Taddeo leads 50-38, and that she has more room to grow than the well-known Garcia. The winner will face freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.
● IN-04, IN-05: GOP Reps. Todd Rokita and Susan Brooks had to drop their re-election campaigns in order to run for governor, but the state party chose Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb as the new gubernatorial nominee instead. Both members immediately made it clear that they'd run for Congress again this year. A caucus of local precinct chairs in each House seat will pick the new GOP nominees, and the date for both caucuses has been set for Aug. 13; interested candidates need to file by Aug. 10. So far, no notable Republicans have made noises about challenging either Rokita or Brooks for the nomination. Both districts are safely red.
● KS-01: Usually when a challenger bumps off an incumbent in a GOP primary, it's a victory for conservative outsiders over the party establishment, but Tuesday's election in Kansas' safely red 1st Congressional District was the exact opposite. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a member of the nihilist House Freedom Caucus, went down to a punishing 56-44 defeat at the hands of physician Roger Marshall, who had the support of agricultural interests that Huelskamp had infuriated with his crusade against farm subsidies.
Huelskamp had a horrible relationship with then-Speaker John Boehner, and reportedly plotted an unsuccessful coup against him in 2013. Boehner retaliated by getting Huelskamp kicked off the House Agriculture Committee, which only further angered local agriculture interests and farmers in this rural seat. Marshall and his allies aired several ads arguing that Kansas couldn't afford not to have a congressman on the powerful committee, and the attacks seem to have worked: As this map from Matthew Isbell shows, Huelskamp fared worst in the counties where farming is king. Huelskamp had urged Paul Ryan to give him his post back, but the new speaker declined to throw him a life preserver.
Ultimately, the combined forces of Big Ag and House leadership were simply too great for Huelskamp to overcome. Establishment-oriented groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were only too happy to join in the effort to oust Huelskamp, and while the radically anti-tax Club for Growth did try to rescue him, this time, their help wasn't enough.
"Mainstream" Republicans are certainly celebrating this win, with Boehner literally toasting Huelskamp's defeat on Tuesday. Still, there are another hundred guys just like Huelskamp in Congress, so it's not as though kicking one lunatic to the curb is going make Ryan's life any easier. What's more, as we alluded, it's the nutters who've typically had far more success against the insiders, and they're hopping mad about Huelskamp's loss. Freedom Caucus chair Jim Jordan, for instance, accused "special interests" of taking their "revenge" against Huelskamp; how long before Jordan and his brigades take their own revenge against their perceived enemies?
Far from sending a warning to the extremists that they'd better get in line, it seems only to have provoked them. One step forward, two steps back. And that photo of a smiling John Boehner swilling a glass of red wine will only infuriate them further.
● ME-02: Freshman Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin is going up with this first TV spot and unsurprisingly, he starts with a positive message. The narrator describes Poliquin's humble origins and talks about how he had to raise his young family alone after his wife died. The commercial goes on to promote Poliquin's business success and runs through a bunch of things he's done in Congress.
● MI-01: In a bit of a surprise, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman won the GOP nod for this open northern Michigan seat. Bergman defeated state Sen. Tom Casperson, who was backed by retiring Rep. Dan Benishek, 39-32, with ex-state Sen. Jason Allen grabbing 28.
Bergman will face ex-state Democratic Party head Lon Johnson in November; Johnson beat 2014 nominee Jerry Cannon 72-28. Romney won this seat 54-45, but the area is more friendly to Democrats downballot, and Johnson is a formidable fundraiser. The Democratic group House Majority PAC has reserved almost $600,000 here for the fall.
Bergman is also likely the Republican Johnson would rather face. Casperson had support from several unions, which could have caused Team Blue some problems in November. By contrast, Bergman relied on his network of conservative activists. Bergman loaned his campaign $270,000, which accounted for most of his budget, and it's unclear how much more money he's willing or able to use. Daily Kos Elections currently rates the general election as Lean Republican, but Bergman introduces some extra unpredictability into this contest.
● MI-10: If at first you don't succeed, move to the other side of Michigan and run for Congress in a different seat. Rich guy Paul Mitchell did just that: Two years after losing the GOP nod for Michigan's 4th District 52-36 to now-Rep. John Moolenaar, Mitchell beat state Sen. Phil Pavlov 38-28 for the safely red 10th District. In both campaigns, Mitchell used his fortune to outspend all his opponents. However, Moolenaar had the resources to run his own ads against Mitchell. By contrast, Pavlov didn't spent much money, which allowed Mitchell to dominate the airwaves with commercial after commercial.
● MI-13: As expected, Rep. John Conyers defeated Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey in the primary for this safely blue Detroit seat. However, Conyers’ 61-39 win over Winfrey, who barely spent any money, wasn't impressive for the longest serving member of the House.
● MO-01: Unsurprisingly, Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay easily won renomination, beating state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal 63-27 in this safely blue seat. Chappelle-Nadal argued that Clay had not done enough during the protests in Ferguson two years ago. However, Chappelle-Nadal raised very little money, and local and national Democratic power players sided with Clay.
● WA-07: As expected, two Democrats will face off in the general election for this safely blue Seattle seat, but it's not clear exactly which two. With 94 percent of precincts counted as of Wednesday evening, state Sen. Pramila Jayapal, who was backed by Bernie Sanders and outspent her opponents, has 39 percent in the top-two primary. State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw is currently leading King County Commissioner Joe McDermott by 497 votes for the other general election spot, though on election night, McDermott had a 568-vote edge. Thanks to Washington's system of all-mail voting, it may be a little while before we find out for certain whom Jayapal will face in November since ballots can be postmarked as late as Election Day, but the trend in late-counted votes augurs well for Walkinshaw.
● KS State House, Senate: While Kansas is a dark red state, there has been a long and acrimonious divide between the moderate and conservative factions in the state Republican Party. While conservatives have been on the upswing, Gov. Sam Brownback's unpopularity has injected new life into the moderate faction. On Tuesday, moderate Republicans unseated at least 11 conservative legislators, including state Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce. Moderates specifically channeled voter disgust over education funding and the state's budget problems, a theme that particularly resonated in Johnson County in the Kansas City suburbs.
There's no doubt that Republicans will dominate both houses of the legislature after the November general election. However, if moderate Republicans and Democrats form a coalition next year, they may be able to reverse some of Brownback's policies, including his disastrous tax cuts.
● Honolulu, HI Mayor: On behalf of Civil Beat, Merriman River Group takes a look at the Aug. 13 non-partisan primary. They give ex-Republican Rep. Charles Djou a 42-33 edge over Democratic Mayor Kirk Caldwell, with independent ex-Mayor Peter Carlisle at just 9; two weeks ago, Ward Research found Djou leading Caldwell 39-30, with Carlisle at 15. Unless one candidate takes a majority, the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general.
Caldwell and Carlisle are vocal supporters of Honolulu's expensive and controversial rail project while Djou has been a skeptic, though Djou's conceded the rail line cannot be stopped at this point. In 2012, Carlisle lost the primary and his supporters flocked to Caldwell over an anti-rail candidate; if the same thing happens this year, Caldwell should get a boost. Interestingly, Merriman finds all three politicians with much worse favorable ratings than Ward did, though a narrow 46-43 plurality like the incumbent.
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.