● MN-08: Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan turned back rich guy Stewart Mills 49-47 during the 2014 GOP wave. When Mills decided to seek a rematch, it seemed unlikely that he could win this 52-46 Obama seat in a presidential cycle after falling short under such favorable conditions. However, Mills started early with his ads hitting Nolan, and Team Blue seems to be taking him very seriously. While most incumbents begin their competitive re-election ad campaigns with a few positive nice spots before they start ripping their opponent, Nolan went after Mills right off the bat.
Nolan's allies at House Majority PAC reserved some fall TV time here, but they've launched a separate $350,000 ad campaign this week hitting Mills. HMP's spot starts with an old clip of Mills calling the idea that the wealthy aren't paying their fair share "personally offensive." The narrator argues that Mills still opposes raising the minimum wage and middle-class tax cuts, while still wanting tax cuts for the wealthy.
Mills' early ad campaign may have damaged Nolan's numbers, and it's possible that national Democrats are hoping to counter by spending on negative commercials early. It's also a possibility that, unlike in most other competitive races, Donald Trump is an asset for the GOP here. This seat, which is located in the Iron Range in the northeast corner of Minnesota, is much whiter and more rural than the nation as a whole, and it also has a lower proportion of college graduates and a smaller median income. In other words, if Trump is going to noticeably outperform Mitt Romney anywhere, this is probably one of the places he'll do it.
● AZ-Sen: CNN/ORC gives us our first look at Arizona's Senate race in a while, and it actually is good news for John McCain. McCain leads ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward 55-29 in Tuesday's GOP primary, and beats Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick 52-39. This sample gives Donald Trump a 45-38 lead in the state. The primary results aren't incredibly surprising: While McCain has alienated a significant number of Republicans, Ward doesn't have many resources or allies. However, McCain did launch a late ad against Ward, so it's possible he's seeing polls showing things much closer.
This is the first general election poll that's been released in the last two months, and it's certainly not what Team Blue hoped to see. Back in June, two different PPP surveys for liberal groups found McCain and Kirkpatrick locked in a tight contest. Also in June, the Democratic group Greenberg Quinlan Rosner gave McCain just a 2-point edge while the Behavior Research Center had him up 9, though we raised concerns with both polls. With so little recent information, we just don't know if CNN is just finding an unusually red sample, or if McCain actually is in good shape for November.
In any case, Bloomberg reports that Kirkpatrick is going up with another TV spot against the incumbent. The ad isn't online yet, but the narrator reportedly accuses a nonprofit linked to McCain of taking a $1 million donation from Saudi Arabia. McCain's spokesperson said months ago that his role in the non-profit, the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University, is only honorary.
● FL-Sen: Mason-Dixon is the latest pollster to give Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy decisive leads in their Tuesday primaries. Rubio beats rich guy Carlos Beruff 61-22 for the GOP nod, while Murphy, the favorite of national Democrats, defeats Alan Grayson 55-22. In the general election, Rubio has a 46-43 advantage; presidential numbers were not included in this release. Recent polls have consistently shown Rubio leading Murphy, and the HuffPost Pollster average gives him a 47-42 edge.
● LA-Sen: Republican Rep. Charles Boustany picked an odd week to start his ad campaign since so much of Louisiana is still focused on recovering from the recent floods, but at least his latest commercial is on-topic. The spot features a flooded town as Boustany says that this is a time of adversity, "but as the waters rose, our character rose even higher." Boustany then stresses that he's proud to be from south Louisiana and tells the audience that he's fought for coastal restoration, flood insurance, and coastal jobs.
● NC-Sen, NC-Gov: CNN/ORC takes a look at North Carolina and finds similar results as Monmouth's recent poll. Republican Sen. Richard Burr leads Democrat Deborah Ross 50-45 among likely voters, while Democrat Roy Cooper edges GOP Gov. Pat McCrory 52-46; this sample has Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump deadlocked 45-45. The HuffPost Pollster average gives Burr a 42-39 lead and Cooper a 47-44 advantage. Meanwhile, McCrory is out with another commercial where he argues that he "gave teachers the largest pay raise in the country."
● NH-Sen: The Democratic group Majority Forward is launching a $2.4 million ad going after Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte on Medicare. The commercial features a man telling his friend that he's stocking up on vitamins before Ayotte can privatize Medicare and raise the eligibility age.
● NV-Sen: We have several new ads in Nevada, with two from each side. For the Democrats, the Senate Majority PAC rips into GOP Rep. Joe Heck for his repeated votes against banning individuals on the terror watch list from buying guns. Following the San Bernardino massacre—"a mass shooting inspired by ISIS"—the narrator says Heck "had the chance to ban suspected terrorists from buying guns." But "Heck voted no—23 times."
The narrator piles on: "Individuals on the FBI terror watch list have purchased firearms over 2,000 times. It's not just the Joe Heck does nothing to stop them. It's that has voted to let them keep doing it—23 times." This is a very effective way to push back against the perennial conservative claim that Democrats are soft on security by accurately portraying Republicans as weak on terror.
End Citizens United takes a completely different approach, criticizing the millions spent by "special interests" to support Heck and saying he "voted to keep the piles of secret money coming," including from the Koch brothers. The spot is part of a $1.5 million buy.
Speaking of the Kochs, Freedom Partners attacks Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto for allegedly refusing to help the family of a 90-year-old veteran who had been victimized by a state-run guardianship program back when she was attorney general. A letter Cortez Masto's office sent at the time said it didn't have jurisdiction over the matter, but even if that's accurate, that's not a fun thing to have to explain to voters. Freedom Partners is reportedly spending $1.2 million to air the spot.
Finally, Heck himself is reportedly airing a new Spanish-language spot that criticizes Cortez Masto's effort to link him to Donald Trump. Idea: If you don't like being connected to Trump, don't endorse him! For whatever reason, the ad doesn't appear to be on Heck's YouTube page.
● OH-Sen: The idea behind Democrat Ted Strickland's newest ad is good, but the execution could be much stronger. The spot tries to tie GOP Sen. Rob Portman to Donald Trump, which shouldn't be too hard because Portman, like just about every other Republican senator, has refused to disavow his party's nominee. Yet the narrator for some reason starts out by saying, "We all know what Donald Trump has said about women." We're willing to bet that plenty of people watching this ad on TV are not all that familiar with Trump's litany of misogyny, and it's far more effective to let Trump speak for himself.
That's exactly what just about every ad supporting Hillary Clinton has done, particularly this blistering spot from Priorities USA that featured Trump's unforgiveable mockery of a disabled New York Times reporter. Arizona Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick took the same approach in this web-only video, using footage of Trump insulting John McCain interspersed with clips of McCain grudgingly saying he'd support the GOP nominee.
But in Strickland's ad, Trump never gets to say a word. Instead, the narrator talks the entire time, saying that Portman and Trump share an anti-woman agenda while saying Strickland "respects the rights of women." Far better to show Trump actually saying some of the terrible things he's said, alongside statements from Portman declaring he's sticking with his party. As the saying goes, it's always better to show rather than tell.
● NH-Gov: For reasons beyond understanding, New Hampshire doesn't require state candidates to submit campaign finance reports until just weeks before its primary. The deadline passed on Wednesday, giving us a complete look at all the gubernatorial contenders' financial status ahead of the Sept. 13 primary.
Surprisingly, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas decisively outraised Executive Councilor Chris Sununu on the GOP side. Gatsas took in $965,000 (and loaned himself another $75,000) to Sununu's $588,000 (Sununu also transferred another $57,000 from a previous campaign), and the mayor holds a $552,000 to $224,000 cash-on-hand edge. Sununu comes from New Hampshire's powerful GOP political family, so it's pretty notable he's not doing better financially. (John Sununu, the candidate's father, was the state's governor and the chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, as well as a recent state party chair; Chris' brother was also a U.S. senator.) Sununu also entered the race in September while Gatsas didn't get in until March, but the mayor still brought in considerably more money in a considerably shorter period of time.
However, state Rep. Frank Edelblut has the largest warchest right now. While Edelblut only raised $80,000, he loaned his campaign another $750,000, and he has $587,000 in the bank. State Sen. Jeanie Forrester brings up the rear with $208,000 raised, $29,000 more transferred, and $116,000 cash-on-hand. GOP primary polling has been very scarce so far. However, the ad war has intensified in recent days. Gatsas is out with his second commercial, where he pledges to fight Common Core. Gatsas adds that, "Some say they will fight to end Common Core, but talk is cheap." He doesn't directly reference any of his opponents, but the campaign has made it clear that they're portraying Sununu as a hypocrite on the issue. WMUR says that Gatsas has committed about $500,000 to his primary advertising.
Sununu went up with his first commercial a while ago, but it was backed by just $14,000. Sununu is out with a new spot, and it's unclear how much cash he's putting behind this one. Sununu starts by saying, "The blink of an eye," as the camera quickly cuts to some grainy footage of a police car as a siren wails. Sununu continues by saying, "That's all it takes," before cutting back to the footage. The ad continues this pattern as the candidate talks about how a crazed killer could cost someone their father or husband. Sununu pledges to support the police as governor and "dedicate more resources for better equipment and recruitment." Sununu has reportedly reserved just $64,000 for pre-primary ads, though this spot is not included in that figure.
Edelblut is also going on the air. The narrator in his minute-long spot describes how Edelblut found fraud at a company he was working for and was told to look the other way. The commercial continues by saying that Edelblut turned the perpetrators in even though it cost him and his growing family his job, but he went on to start his own successful business. As a member of New Hampshire's enormous 400-member state House, Edelblut has minimal name recognition, but huge ad spending could change that. WMUR says that Edelblut has scheduled $124,000 in pre-primary ad spending so far. Forrester's campaign refuses to say if she'll advertise, which is a good indication that she won't.
On the Democratic side, state Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern reports raising about $1 million since he entered the contest, and he has $471,000 in the bank. (Van Ostern also transferred $62,000 from a previous contest.) Mark Connolly, the former state securities regulator, raised $377,000 from donors, self-funded another $179,000, and has $306,000 on-hand. Ex-Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand brought in just $102,000, and he has a negative $5,000 balance. What few primary polls there are show that the vast majority of Granite State Democrats are undecided. WMUR reports that Van Ostern has reserved $285,000 in primary ad time to Connolly's $98,000, and they say that Van Ostern's ads are beginning this week. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup.
● CA-07: A few days ago, Republican Scott Jones and the NRCC released a Public Opinion Strategies poll showing Democratic Rep. Ami Bera up 46-45. Another conservative group, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has now released a survey of their own from NMB Research that gives Jones the 46-45 edge. The biggest difference between the two polls is that the POS one gave Hilary Clinton a 41-38 edge in this seat, while NMB has her leading 46-36. Obama carried this suburban Sacramento seat 51-47 but Trump is unlikely to do very well in this well-off district.
● FL-19: Fort Myers viewers are only days away from seeing the last of wealthy ex-Ambassador Francis Rooney's many GOP primary spots, but here's one more for the road. Rooney gives some platitudes about jobs and real world knowledge. This seat is safely red.
● MN-02: Obama only carried Minnesota's open 2nd Congressional District by the narrowest of margins, but the GOP's chances in this suburban Twin Cities seat aren't looking incredible this year. The GOP nominated former conservative radio host Jason Lewis, who has a long history of on-air racist and misogynist rhetoric. Perhaps Lewis' most damaging quote is his declaration that "single women who would vote on the issue of somebody else buying their diaphragm" are "ignorant in, I mean, the most generic way."
Team Blue has chosen wealthy former health care executive Angie Craig, and at the end of July, she held a massive $1.8 million to $107,000 cash-on-hand edge. National Republicans don't sound the least bit excited about Lewis: The NRCC still has not added Lewis to any level of their Young Guns list even though it's been more than two weeks since he won the nomination. However, David Montgomery of the Pioneer Press reports that he obtained a Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research poll conducted for Lewis and the NRCC "from a third party," and it gives Lewis a 39-27 lead over Craig, with Independence Party nominee Paula Overby taking 7. That's a lot of undecideds, and presidential toplines were not included; Daily Kos Elections reached out to the Lewis campaign for more information, but received no response.
Craig released a GBA Strategies survey of her own in response, and it gives her a 43-42 edge, with Overby at 9. This poll has Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 42-35, which feels reasonable given Trump's problems in affluent and well-educated areas like this. While only 6 percent of respondents are undecided in the Craig poll, her campaign says that only 36 percent of respondents could identify both major party candidates.
Lewis' ugly history didn't come up much in the low-key GOP primary, and neither Craig nor her allies have attacked him in ads yet, so it's possible that this poll is just Craig's low-water mark. Still, Overby's 9 percent is a bit concerning. Overby is a left-leaning independent who took 5 percent in 2014, so she could disproportionately cost Craig some votes if this ends up a tight race.
● NH-01: The ads have started late ahead of the GOP's Sept. 13 primary for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, but it's clear this will be a nasty, brutish, and short contest. Rep. Frank Guinta has been in political trouble since last year, when he paid back an illegal 2010 six-figure campaign donation from his parents. But Guinta decided to launch a negative TV spot before businessman Rich Ashooh did, and he painted Ashooh as weak on national security. Now, Ashooh is hitting back and training his fire on Guinta's Achilles Heel.
Ashooh's first commercial starts with news footage where a reporter describes how Guinta agreed "to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars, admitting that he broke campaign finance laws." Ashooh then stresses that "honesty matters in public service," and talks about balancing the budget and protecting the country from terrorism. Ashooh concludes by saying that "we need to bring integrity back to Washington," in case anyone missed the theme of the ad. Whoever emerges with the GOP nod will face Democrat Carol Shea-Porter in this swing seat.
● NY-19: Republican John Faso is up with his second general election ad. The narrator promotes his roots in upstate New York and lays out his plan to keep jobs in the region. The commercial features Faso shaking hands and staring at factory equipment, which is as exciting as it sounds.
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.