● MO-Sen: The NRA recently launched an ad portraying Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Jason Kander as weak on gun rights, which is usually an effective argument in conservative states like this. But Kander's must-see response commercial is one for the books.
Kander is shown blindfolded as he notes that Republican Sen. Roy Blunt has been attacking him on guns. As Kander assembles a rifle while still blindfolded, he describes how, while serving in Afghanistan, he "volunteered to be an extra gun in a convoy of unarmored SUVs." And after saying that he voted to protect gun rights in the legislature, Kander also notes that he "believes in background checks, so that terrorists can't get their hands on one of these." After Kander finishes putting his rifle together, he concludes, "I approve this message because I'd like to see Sen. Blunt do this."
This type of ad isn't going to deter Republicans from portraying Kander as an out-of-touch liberal, but it's a very effective spot nonetheless. The commercial pushes back on the attacks in a persuasive and interesting way while also informing viewers about Kander's compelling story. Kander's decision to highlight his support for background checks as a way to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists is also a great line: According to a recent PPP survey, 84 percent of Missouri voters support increasing background checks, including 79 percent of Republicans. All in all, this ad gives almost everyone something to like.
Kander's allies are also up with a new spot contrasting his combat service with Blunt's Senate record. VoteVets, a group dedicated to electing Democratic veterans to Congress, tells viewers that, while Kander could have chosen to go anywhere after law school, he picked Afghanistan. As footage of combat flashes by, the narrator, who is identified as St. Louis Iraq War veteran John Hussey, argues that Blunt is trying to smear Kander's record.
Hussey then tells Blunt that he "didn't level with us about your draft history," a reference to a February story that revealed that, while Blunt previously insisted that his draft number was never called up during the Vietnam War, he actually received three student deferments. Hussey goes on to say that Blunt "voted against veterans' benefits for guys like me." According to Politico, VoteVets is putting $400,000 behind this spot.
As we've noted before, Kander has a tough task ahead of him in November. Donald Trump is likely to carry Missouri, so Kander will need plenty of crossover support to win. Kander and his allies are hoping to frame this a contest between a combat veteran and a longtime politician who is enjoying the perks of DC. Blunt and his friends hope that their message that Kander is an incompetent ultra-liberal will be the one that breaks through. Aside from one odd survey we discuss below in our Polls section, surveys have constantly given Blunt a 3- to 7-point lead, though there hasn't been much Democratic advertising here until recently.
● IN-Sen: National Democrats are bringing out the big guns to give ex-Sen. Evan Bayh some much-needed reinforcement in the TV ad wars as he fights to reclaim his old Senate seat against Republican Rep. Todd Young. Senate Majority PAC will begin running commercials this week in what is becoming an increasingly expensive contest. The new spot features an elderly couple in a supermarket, with a narrator who blasts Young for calling Social Security a "Ponzi scheme" and backing cuts to the program. SMP did not say how much money is behind this ad or for how long it will run
, but the DSCC itself has $1.3 million reserved for future spots here.
Bayh started with race with high name recognition and over $9 million left over from his previous campaigns, giving him a crucial leg up. However, Democrats have become concerned because Republican outside groups supporting Young have outspent Team Blue in recent weeks by roughly a two-to-one margin. The Senate Leadership Fund, the main super PAC backing Senate Republicans, just began a $4 million ad buy against Bayh this week. Republicans have hit Bayh especially hard for his decision to work for a DC lobbying firm after he left the Senate, and have also made an issue of how little time he spent in Indiana before he decided to run again.
This new Democratic ad support comes as some polls have suggested a closer race than what Democratic surveys released in July and August showed. A month-old Monmouth poll gave Bayh a 48-41 lead, while last week, a poll from the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of the nonpartisan newsletter Howey Politics had Bayh up just 44-40.
Politico reports that an anonymous Republican internal poll gives Team Blue slightly better news, since the survey shows Young "within 10 points" of Bayh. However, the poll reportedly says that, when voters hear messages about both candidates, Bayh leads by just 45-43. Young still has far less name recognition than Bayh, so it makes sense that he has more room to grow in this conservative state. Indeed, Republican spending here indicates they think they have a real chance to win. Democrats may have hoped that their early polls that showed Bayh with massive leads would convince Republicans not to spend here, but that's definitely not happening now.
Until recently, national Democrats had been content to let Bayh use his large war chest to fend for himself, with the only outside activity coming in the form of a a seven-figure DSCC ad buy earlier in the summer. However, with Trump likely to win Indiana with relative ease, an onslaught of Republican ads, and Bayh's own missteps over his residency issues, he can use all the help he can get right now.
Indiana is one of the Republican-held seats Democrats will likely need to win to gain a majority in the Senate, and with the party's prospects dimming recently elsewhere, they have little room for error. However, even Republicans seem to be acknowledging that Bayh is ahead right now, though that could easily change over the next eight weeks, particularly as Young becomes better known. Daily Kos Elections continues to rate Indiana as a Tossup.
● NC-Sen: The NRA recently ran their first commercial against Democrat Deborah Ross, and North Carolina voters can expect to see a whole lot more. The Charlotte Observer reports that the NRA has committed $3 million to the campaign, though FEC reports indicate that they've spent $1.26 million on their recent buy so far.
● AR-Sen: Emerson College Polling Society: John Boozman (R-inc) 44, Conner Eldridge (D) 30 (57-29 Trump)
● CO-Sen: Emerson College Polling Society: Michael Bennet (D-inc): 46, Darryl Glenn (R) 39 (42-38 Trump)
● GA-Sen: Opinion Savvy for FOX 5: Johnny Isakson (R-inc) 47, Jim Barksdale (D): 34 (46-42 Trump)
● GA-Sen: Emerson College Polling Society: Isakson 48, Barksdale 32 (45-39 Trump)
● IA-Sen: Monmouth: Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 56, Patty Judge (D) 39 (45-37 Trump) (July: 52-42 Grassley)
● MO-Sen: Emerson College Polling Society: Jason Kander (D) 42, Roy Blunt (R-inc) 40 (47-34 Trump)
● OH-Sen: Suffolk: Rob Portman (R-inc): 39, Ted Strickland (D): 31 (42-39 Trump) (July: 37-33 Portman)
● PA-Sen: GBA Strategies (D) for End Citizens United: Katie McGinty (D) 47, Pat Toomey (R-inc) 42 (46-40 Clinton)
Note that the GBA poll of Pennsylvania is from late August and was released on Wednesday.
The Emerson College Polling Society—a student-run club, not an official school institute— has produced some crazy numbers this cycle, including a recent set of polls that had Hillary Clinton only winning Rhode Island just 44-41 while taking swingy New Hampshire by a larger 42-37. But Jason Kander running 15 points ahead of Clinton may be their craziest result yet.
Emerson employs a strange methodology where they only call landlines, then proceed to weight "with a 3 point decrease in Conservative opinion and a 3 point increase in Liberal opinion." Hopefully we'll have more data now that both Democrats and Republicans are advertising in Missouri, but until then, there are very good reasons to be skeptical of this poll in particular, and all Emerson polls in general.
● NC-Gov: Civitas Institute (R): Pat McCrory (R-inc) 45, Roy Cooper (D) 43 (42-42 presidential tie) (June: 45-40 McCrory).
● IL-12: In a late and unexpected move, the DCCC has added attorney C.J. Baricevic to its Emerging Races program, designed to highlight candidates it thinks could develop into top-tier contenders. Democrats had held Illinois' 12th Congressional District, which Barack Obama won by a slim 50-48 margin, until the 2014 GOP wave, when Republican Mike Bost unseated freshman Rep. Bill Enyart. But it hadn't felt like promising turf this cycle, particularly because Democratic recruiters weren't able to land their first-choice options.
And this district in particular, located adjacent to St. Louis in the southwestern corner of the state, still doesn't seem ripe, since it's predominantly white and its median income and educational attainment levels are both well below the national averages. That makes it the sort of territory where Donald Trump has thrived.
Still, it's possible Democrats have seen polling that shows them with an opportunity here, though a Baricevic internal from June gave Bost a daunting 50-37 lead. And Bost has some negatives. In particular, he was notorious for his frequent rage-filled outbursts on the floor of the state legislature. Thanks to the strong winds at his back, Bost didn't pay much of a price when Democrats tried to make an issue of his temperament two years ago, but in a more neutral political climate, his character could become an issue.
But that'll only happen if Democrats have the resources to expose voters to Bost's furious explosions, and right now, Bost has a wide financial advantage: As of June 30, the incumbent had $1 million in the bank, versus $417,000 for his challenger. What's more, there are some questions about how Baricevic acquired some of his war chest. After he put together a surprisingly strongly first-quarter fundraising haul, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that some $246,000 he'd raised to date had come from attorneys and law firm employees with cases pending in the local judicial circuit where Baricevic's father is chief judge.
That alone might not have been all that noteworthy—there are over two dozen judges on that circuit, and you expect an attorney like Baricevic to know other lawyers—but one other detail stood out. At the law firm that gave the most to Baricevic, three secretaries, two legal assistants, and a receptionist all donated the legal maximum of $2,700 to his campaign on the same day in March. While there were no allegations of wrongdoing, that's an unusual pattern of contributions from people who are not higher earners, and it's illegal for one person to give money to another with the intent that those funds be donated to a candidate.
But whatever questions were raised by this activity, ultimately the DCCC must have decided it was comfortable enough with the answers. Still, Baricevic will need outside help to put this seat in play, which Daily Kos Elections currently rates as Likely Republican.
● MI-01: On Thursday, Former state Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson released an internal poll from Anzalone Liszt Grove showing him with a 43-41 lead over Republican candidate Jack Bergman, a retired Marine lieutenant general. The 1st District, which covers the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan, backed Mitt Romney by a 54-45 margin four years ago. However, it has a history of voting more Democratic downballot, and Democrats nearly won this seat in 2012. The memo did not include presidential toplines.
Johnson has been a prodigious fundraiser, while Bergman defeated establishment Republicans' preferred candidates in the GOP primary in August. National Republicans returned the favor by waiting a whole month to add him to their Young Guns fundraising list, which signals to donors races it considers top-tier opportunities. Democrats will likely need to win open seats like this to have any shot at taking the House. Outside groups from both parties have reserved a combined $2.6 million worth of ads here according to our tracking spreadsheet. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.
● MN-03: The DCCC released an in-house poll on Thursday finding state Sen. Terri Bonoff leading Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen 40-38, which is leagues better than a poll Bonoff herself released back in June. Unlike this new DCCC survey, which has Bonoff ahead on the initial ballot that pollsters usually ask first, that older Bonoff internal only found her tied after respondents were read short positive statements about each candidate in what's called an "informed ballot." That means Bonoff almost certainly trailed in the initial match-up in her own poll. (Note: Unlike most D-Trip polls, this one was a live-caller survey rather than a robopoll.)
The DCCC claims Bonoff's lead is a result of their attack ad tying Paulsen to Donald Trump. However, that seems dubious since that ad has only been on the air for about a week, and Paulsen is a relatively entrenched four-term incumbent. His allies previously released an August survey showing him cruising to reelection by a monstrous 57-31 spread, but those numbers just don't seem credible either, seeing as both parties have reserved a whopping $15.5 million in the Minneapolis media market, which covers the 3rd District and neighboring seats. Some of that will undoubtedly be used for two other competitive races in Minnesota, but a good chunk will be for the 3rd.
Minnesota's 3rd District is located entirely in the Minneapolis suburbs and has a very large proportion of college-educated voters. Although Obama only won it 50-49, its voter demographics make it ripe territory for Hillary Clinton to win by a more comfortable margin. Indeed, the D-Trip's memo says that Clinton leads by "double digits," though they didn't provide actual numbers. While the DCCC's survey might seem a little too good to be true, we could start seeing more polls like it if Trump truly is an albatross for downballot Republicans in upscale districts. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race as Lean Republican.
● NY-03: And like that, he's gone: A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court's decision that ordered a belated Republican primary be held on Oct. 6 in New York's 3rd Congressional District, prompting the candidate who'd sought the late primary, Philip Pidot, to abandon his bid. Pidot had been kicked off the regular June primary ballot but later managed to convince a federal judge in upstate New York to schedule a new one, which of course displeased the guy who managed to boot Pidot in the first place, GOP state Sen. Jack Martins. Martins then tried have the general election delayed until December but was rebuffed. He was in the midst of appealing that ruling, but now that issue is moot.
As a result, we'll now proceed as planned to the regularly scheduled November elections, which will pit Martins against former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, a Democrat. The two are vying for this swingy suburban seat on Long Island left open by the retirement of Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, a former chair of the DCCC. A poll last month commissioned by the D-Trip that found Suozzi leading 52-36 was never answered by Republicans, though the NRCC has made a $1 million ad reservation here.
● NY-22: Three-way general elections often force candidates to make interesting decisions about whom to attack and how exactly to attack them. Right now, on behalf of Republican Claudia Tenney, the NRCC is taking the more traditional route of going after Democrat Kim Myers on the airwaves. But Tenney herself is out with a spot hitting wealthy independent Martin Babinec, in which she argues that Babinec has bankrolled Democrats Hillary Clinton and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, profited from Obamacare, and is "just like a pay-to-play Washington insider." So what explains Tenney's choice?
Polls from the DCCC, Tenney, and Babinec all show his support in the 20s, so we know he's having an impact in the race for this Utica-area seat. So far, he's mostly run as a non-partisan businessman, but some of his ads have struck a conservative theme, and he's said that he would caucus with the GOP if he wins. Based on the kind of campaign Babinec's running, Tenney likely believes he's taking more votes from her than from Myers, which explains why she's going after him early. While it's also possible that Tenney is hoping to convince some Democrats to pick Babinec over Myers by portraying him as a liberal, she probably wouldn't be casting him as a corrupt insider if she were aiming to make him more palatable to Team Blue's base.
Democrats, though, are continuing to concentrate their fire on Tenney alone, with a new ad from the House Majority PAC that once again argues that Tenney took taxpayer money while skipping numerous votes in the state Assembly. The Democrats' focus on Tenney suggests they agree that Babinec is her problem, not theirs.
● NY-25: In 2014, longtime Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter came within 583 votes of losing to little-known Republican Mark Assini in a Rochester seat that Obama carried 59-39. Assini is running again, and while he's again raised very little money and attracted no outside support, Slaughter is not taking any chances and is out with an attack ad portraying Assini as an ultra-conservative.
● NY State Senate: Democrats' chances of reclaiming New York's state Senate suffered a major setback on Tuesday night, and for the most revolting reason possible: A supposed "progressive" who won a primary for an open seat on Manhattan's West Side has promised to join a group of renegade Democrats who side with the Republicans and keep the GOP in power even though it holds a minority of seats in the chamber. Since this district is safely blue, Marisol Alcantara, a union organizer and—if you can believe it—a vocal Bernie Sanders supporter, will become the sixth conspirator in this traitorous junta, known as the Independent Democratic Conference.
And make no mistake about it: The IDC exists solely to further the power of its members. Its leader, Jeff Klein, struck a dirty bargain with the GOP years ago, becoming "Co-Leader and President Pro Tempore" alongside Republican Dean Skelos. (Skelos has since been sentenced to five years in prison for corruption.) From that perch, while earning perks for himself—such as a custom-gerrymandered home district—Klein and the IDC have helped Republicans stymie boatloads of progressive priorities.
That includes things like a state version of the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to receive college tuition assistance. The IDC professes to support it, but their GOP allies refuse to let it come up for a vote. If Democrats were in charge, it would pass tomorrow. The IDC knows this, and that makes them worse than hypocrites.
And it's this gang of power-hungry self-promoters that Alcantara, who won with just 33 percent of the vote, will soon be a part of. Stunningly, a spokesperson for Alcantara claimed that she's "as progressive as they come," but there is nothing progressive about supporting the IDC—and the Republican Party. It's almost unfathomable that Alcantara would even do such a thing, but it starts to make a little more sense when you learn that, after she entered the race late, the IDC spent heavily on her behalf.
Now her craven move means that mainstream Democrats would need to pick up seven Republican-held seats this November in order to take back the Senate and not have to worry about Klein and his band of sellouts. That's a daunting task, though Democrats should be able to make some gains on Election Day. If they do, and the IDC continues to prop up the GOP, it will make the IDC's ongoing efforts to thwart the will of New York's Democratic majority even more egregious. Is that where Marisol Alcantara really wants to find herself?
● Deaths: On Thursday, Democrat Rose Mofford, who became the first woman to serve as governor of Arizona in 1988, died at the age of 94. Mofford served as secretary of state for over a decade and became acting governor after the legislature suspended GOP incumbent Evan Mecham's powers during his impeachment.
After Mecham was removed from office by the legislature for misuse of public funds and obstruction of justice, Mofford was elevated to the governorship. (Arizona still has no lieutenant governor and the secretary of state remains next in line, something Democrats were painfully reminded of when Jan Brewer became governor after Barack Obama tapped then-Gov. Janet Napolitano to head the Department of Homeland Security in 2009.) Mofford was credited for bringing the state stability after the Mecham disaster, but she decided not to seek a full term in 1990.
● AZ-Sen: In a Spanish spot, Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick argues that Republican Sen. John McCain opposes the DREAM Act and backed Arizona's infamous SB 1070 law in 2010.
● NV-Sen: Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto features law enforcement officials and a prosecutor praising her record as attorney general and saying that they trust her to keep the state safe.
● PA-Sen: Michael Bloomberg's super PAC Independence USA is spending at least $682,000 on a spot for Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The ad stars several state prosecutors praising Toomey on background checks. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a strange ad against Democrat Katie McGinty arguing that she "was so polarizing that the state faced a budget crisis that jeopardized our schools, and risked vital services for those most in need." They don't go into any detail about how McGinty, who served as Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff, supposedly single-handedly caused a massive crisis by being "polarizing."
● IN-Gov: Republican Eric Holcomb talks to the camera and argues that as state House speaker, Democrat John Gregg's policies damaged local schools and local governments. Holcomb then says that, while working for ex-Gov. Mitch Daniels, he helped turn the state around. Interestingly, Holcomb doesn't mention current Gov. Mike Pence.
● FL-18: Republican Brian Mast talks about his time serving in Afghanistan, saying he fought for everyone regardless of race or party affiliation. Mast doesn't mention that he lost both his legs in the war, but he doesn't really need to. The NRCC is also out with a very rare positive commercial that praises Mast's sacrifice in war and his work protecting the Indian River Lagoon.
● IA-03: Unfortunately for Democrats, Republican Rep. David Young has come a long way from his infamous 2014 "Good Meal" ad (which has sadly been pulled from YouTube). This time, Young talks about the many humble jobs he had before serving in Congress, even pointing out that he once cleaned bedpans (and he holds one up for effect). Young then says he's protecting Iowa values in the House.
● IL-10: Republican Rep. Bod Dold! features the sister of a heroin victim praising Dold's work fighting the opioid epidemic.
● MN-02: Republican Jason Lewis is recycling his one commercial from the August primary, and the NRCC is helping him fund it. Once again, Lewis says that he's not politically correct, which is an incredibly nice way to put it, and pledges to help the economy and secure the borders.
● NE-02: The NRCC argues that Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford lied in his commercial when he said that he wants to keep the Guantanamo Bay prison open.
● NV-04: In his first ad, Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy argues that he's a public servant who works to help all of his constituents regardless of their party.
● NY-03: In his first ad, Democrat Tom Suozzi appears with his mother, and they both praise him as someone who will stand up to anyone to help the little guy.
Daily Kos Elections is pleased to announce that Stephen Wolf is joining us in a stepped-up capacity for the stretch run through November. Chances are you're already familiar with Stephen's writing, particularly his excellent work on redistricting, and now you'll be seeing more of him. Stephen will be contributing to the Digest and will also be writing longer stand-alone analytical pieces, starting off with this excellent explanation of why national polls are obscuring Hillary Clinton's advantage were it truly counts—in the swing states. You should also follow Stephen on Twitter, and please give him a warm welcome!