● AZ-01: On behalf of the DCCC, Global Strategy Group is out with a poll giving Democrat Tom O'Halleran a 45-38 lead over Republican Paul Babeu. This sample has Hillary Clinton leading 46-43 in this open northern Arizona seat. Romney carried the district 50-48 and polls consistently show Donald Trump doing worse in Arizona, so the presidential result is plausible. 2012 Democratic Senate nominee Richard Carmona also won this seat 49-46 while he was losing statewide 49-46, so Clinton could very well take this district even if she doesn't carry Arizona.
An unreleased GSG poll from August also showed O'Halleran leading by 7 points (the actual toplines were not included in the memo). However, the poll says that while Babeu consolidated Republican voters in the ensuing month, he lost ground with independents. This is the first poll we've seen here, and we'll see if Babeu or his allies respond with their own numbers.
But interestingly, it doesn't appear that GOP outside groups have reserved any airtime in this seat. According to our House reservations chart, DCCC and House Majority PAC have reserved a total of almost $3 million here, but the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund don't seem to have booked a dime. In mid-August, O'Halleran held a $472,000 to $116,000 cash-on-hand lead, so it's even more notable that Team Red seems to be leaving Babeu to fend for himself right now. Early voting, which is very popular in Arizona, begins Oct. 12, so the clock is ticking.
It's very possible that Team Red has just decided that Babeu is not a good investment. As we've noted before, Babeu has a long list of scandals next to his name. Most seriously, a home video emerged a few months ago showing Babeu bragging about the abusive "discipline" he dished out to students at a school for at-risk youth he once ran in Massachusetts—after Babeu had long insisted he knew nothing about the mistreatment. The DCCC began airing ads against Babeu on this awful story in early September, while national Republicans have yet to adequately respond. We'll see if Team Red gets involved here, but with early voting starting soon, they really can't procrastinate much longer if they actually want to aid Babeu.
● IN-Sen: According to Politico, national Democrats are pouring more money into the Indiana Senate race. A few weeks ago, the DSCC diverted $2.5 million to help Evan Bayh, and Politico reports that they're planning to spend an additional $2.5 million here. Senate Majority PAC recently launched a $700,000 buy, and they're now reportedly putting another $1 million into this contest. On the GOP side, Senate Leadership Fund is dropping another $1 million to aid Todd Young.
When Bayh entered the race for his old Senate seat two months ago, he started with a massive $9.3 million left over from his previous campaigns, while Young only had just about $1 million in the bank. A month ago, both SMP and the DSCC released polls giving Bayh a 16 and 18-point lead, respectively. Democrats may have hoped that Bayh's war chest and huge leads would allow them to focus their money on other contests, but that dream is dead now.
Young and his allies have spent millions tying Bayh to the Obama administration, which is not popular in this conservative state. They've also focused on attacking Bayh for joining a lobbying firm after he left the Senate in 2011, as well as for spending most of his time since then away from Indiana. We have very few polls here, but a recent survey by GOP pollster Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of the political newsletter Howey Politics gave Bayh just a 44-40 lead. The Democrats' new investments in this contest are also a strong indication that the GOP's attacks are drawing blood. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.
● NH-Sen: So many super PACs have the vaguest of names, but the John Bolton Super PAC does what it says on the tin: It supports candidates backed by John Bolton, the chaotic evil former U.N. ambassador under George W. Bush with a moustache stolen from a grizzled 1890s gold prospector. Bolton himself stars in his newest ad (which is reportedly airing for $1 million), and what a fittingly ridiculous affair it is. As Bolton complains that the U.S. has been "conned" by Iran, a set of bubbling Erlenmeyer flasks filled with brightly colored liquids start to bubble over. These are supposed to somehow represent nuclear activity, as a sign sproings up to say, "This is definitely not a nuclear weapons site." No, it definitely isn't!
Bolton then goes on to whine that Syria "has become a safe haven for ISIS" because "President Obama chose to just look the other way"—which he says as he swivels a Barack Obama bobblehead doll away from a map of Syria on an easel. The map features those big red arrows that signify "troop movements," but one of them is coming from Syria's west, which is to say, the Mediterranean Sea. Safe to say the ISIS Navy has not invaded. Bolton mercifully finishes by asking viewers to "support traditional American leadership" in the form of Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte … and then that goofy pop-up sign appears again, this time with Ayotte's name on it. Oy. Guess they wanted to get good money out of their props. Wonder how they reused those flasks.
● OH-Sen: Unfortunately, we've gotten to the point where national Democrats are canceling more TV reservations in this contest and barely anyone is batting an eye. Senate Majority PAC has now slashed their planned ad blitz for the week of Oct. 11.
● NJ-Gov: In a major surprise, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, an all-but-declared Democratic candidate, announced on Wednesday that he would not run for governor next year. Fulop instead endorsed actually-declared candidate Phil Murphy, a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive, DNC finance chairman, and ambassador to Germany.
Fulop was one of several New Jersey Democrats who spent years preparing to run to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Chris Christie. However, Murphy won over several influential North Jersey endorsements in recent weeks that Fulop was counting on. There was also the possibility that Fulop would need to testify in the trial over Bridgegate. Allies of state Senate President Steve Sweeney, another all-but-declared Democratic candidate, were reportedly convinced that Fulop's testimony would embarrass the Jersey City mayor and weaken him.
Fulop's decision not to officially run should make it much easier for Murphy to consolidate support in North Jersey ahead of next year's primary with the South Jersey-based Sweeney. Several other Democrats are also eyeing this race. Somewhat confusingly, state Sen. Ray Lesniak appeared to announce that he was running last year, but he has yet to make his campaign official; however, he will reportedly declare he's in soon. Other potential Democratic contenders include Assemblymembers John Wisniewski and Shavonda Sumter, as well as Tom Byrne, the son of ex-Gov. Brendan Byrne.
● CA-13: At the end of 2014, Barack Obama announced that, as part of his new effort to normalize political relations with Cuba, the U.S. would reopen its embassy in Havana—and that he'd appoint a new ambassador, the first in over 50 years. Not long thereafter, we learned that Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents one of the bluest congressional districts in the nation, was reportedly interested in the post. But on Tuesday, Obama nominated career diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis for the job, passing over Lee. However, administration officials acknowledge that, thanks go GOP dead-enders in the Senate, it'll be hard to get DeLaurentis confirmed, so it's possible the position could remain vacant until a hypothetical Hillary Clinton presidency, when she'd be free to appoint whomever she likes.
● FL-26: Expedition Strategies is out with a poll for Democrat Joe Garcia giving him a tiny 47-46 lead over Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in this Miami seat. The sample gives Hillary Clinton a 49-36 lead in the district, which is slightly larger than Obama's 55-44 victory here, but it makes sense given Donald Trump's poor numbers with Hispanic voters. According to Politico, the poll also gives Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy a 48-47 edge here. The memo says that, after positive and negative information is read to respondents about both House candidates, Garcia's lead increases to 48-40, but the poll doesn't say which messages were tested. We haven't seen any other polls here yet.
● IA-01, IA-03: Loras College surveys both of Iowa's competitive congressional races, and they give the GOP good news in both seats. In eastern Iowa's 1st District, Republican Rep. Rod Blum leads Democrat Monica Vernon 45-38 even as Hillary Clinton takes this seat 42-33. In the Des Moines-area 3rd, Republican Rep. David Young leads Democrat Jim Mowrer 46-36, while Clinton has a 42-38 edge here. This poll was conducted at the same time that Loras' statewide survey found Clinton and Donald Trump deadlocked 38-38, but these polls were done separately. (The statewide poll had a sample size of 491, while each House survey had more than 300 respondents.)
As we've noted in the past, Loras has produced some strange results since they opened their polling operation in 2014. However, neither House poll looks unreasonable. One month ago, Blum released a survey from the bizarrely named "the polling company, inc./WomanTrend," which is run by Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, giving him a similar 50-43 lead in the 1st. Vernon and her allies notably have yet to respond with contradictory numbers. Obama carried this seat 56-42 and Blum only narrowly won during the 2014 GOP wave, but this Loras poll also indicates that Blum is hardly as doomed as he originally looked.
The news is even worse in the 3rd. Over the last two months, two GOP polls and one other independent survey all gave Young a double-digit lead, and Democrats also have yet to respond with better numbers. Both parties are continuing to air ads in both Iowa seats, and the 1st may just end up being too blue for Blum, especially if Clinton's poll numbers improve in Iowa. However, Democrats don't have much room for error in the 3rd seat, which Obama carried 51-47, and all the data we have looks good for Young.
● KS-03: A few weeks ago, Democrat Jay Sidie released a poll that initially showed him losing to Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder 49-37 in Kansas' 3rd District, but with one very persuasive argument for voters in this suburban Kansas City seat. The poll gave Republican Gov. Sam Brownback a horrific 18-70 approval rating, and the memo argued that, when respondents heard negative information about both candidates, "including attacks tying Sidie to Nancy Pelosi and linking Yoder to Gov. Brownback," Sidie moves into a 44-40 lead.
For years, Brownback has radically slashed the state budget, and his cuts to education have been particularly brutal. It's gotten so bad that last month, local Republican voters revolted against Brownback's self-described "experiment" and ousted several of his allies in the state legislature in the GOP primary.
Sidie is now testing out his strategy of tying Yoder to Brownback in his first ad of the race. Sidie tells the audience that "earlier this year, I wasn't sure if there'd be a school for my daughters to go back to." He then argues that Yoder was "the architect of Sam Brownback's radical plan to cut education to pay for corporate tax breaks." Sidie concludes that, "I'm a small businessman, not a politician. But I'd do anything to protect my daughters' future."
Yoder wasted absolutely no time responding with his own spot. The narrator claims that Sidie actually "skipped every school funding vote here in Kansas." (Sidie's not an elected official; Yoder is referring to ballot measure elections.) Interestingly, Yoder released his own poll in August giving himself a massive 53-36 lead over his challenger. However, the fact that Yoder immediately had an ad on this very topic ready to go is a good indication that, despite what his poll showed, he believes this issue could cause him problems if he doesn't deal with it properly.
● MN-03, MN-02: In a somewhat surprising move, both Roll Call and the National Journal are reporting that the House Majority PAC has cancelled a $574,000 TV reservation it made in the Twin Cities back in July on behalf of Democrat Terri Bonoff. What makes this development unexpected is that just a couple of weeks ago, the DCCC released an internal poll showing Bonoff with a 40-38 edge on GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen, which naturally would suggest that this suburban Minneapolis seat is up for grabs.
But evidently, the folks at HMP don't feel the same way. An August poll from Paulsen's allies had him ahead by a giant 57-31 margin, so HMP's numbers may look a lot more like those than the D-Trip's. However, the DCCC says it's still committed to this contest, with committee chair Ben Ray Lujan insisting the race remains "very competitive" and "very much in play." And according to our House reservations chart, the DCCC still has about $600,000 specifically earmarked for Minnesota's 3rd, as well as another $6.6 million booked in Minneapolis that could be used for races in the 2nd and 8th Districts.
What's particularly disappointing about the pullback from the 3rd, though, is that this seemed like the type of affluent, well-educated area where Democrats could turn Donald Trump into a serious anvil around GOP necks. But if that approach doesn't wind up working out here, that shouldn't be taken as a sign that this strategy won't work, just that it can't always work. Paulsen has done a good job selling himself as a reasonable sort of Republican for almost a decade—enough to put distance between himself and Trump in the minds of a sufficient number of voters. Other Republicans aren't so skilled and won't get the same benefit of the doubt.
And in the next-door 2nd District, that's exactly what appears to be happening. Roll Call says that HMP is also reducing its $1.3 million reservation there, but for the opposite reason. The PAC feels that Democrat Angie Craig has an edge on conservative radio host Jason Lewis, one of the most Trump-like candidates running anywhere in the nation—and one Democrats have tried hard to tie to Trump. Lewis, of course, is not an incumbent, but Republicans have comfortably held this seat for over a decade, so the fact that it may be trending toward the Democrats is a positive sign.
● MT-AL: Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke has the luxury of running for re-election in a conservative state, so it's surprising that he's running a very defensive commercial. In fact, Zinke violates rule number one of politics and repeats his opponent's charges against him. Right off the bat, the narrator says that Denise Juneau, Zinke's Democratic opponent, "claimed Congressman Zinke wanted to sell our public lands. Fact checkers said that's not true."
The rest of the ad argues that Zinke actually stood up to his own party to protect lands, and that Juneau is a liar. There has been no public polling here, and national groups don't appear to have made any ad reservations for this seat. However, Zinke's reaction to Juneau's ads suggests that he thinks that her attacks on him over public lands could cause him some trouble.
● NH-01: After spending over a year running for this swing district as a Democrat and gaining nothing but enemies, self-funding carpetbagger Shawn O'Connor decided to seek this seat as an independent instead. O'Connor is now up with his first TV spot, which he only says is "a major, robust buy across 1st Congressional District broadcast and cable systems."
The ad features bobble heads of Republican Rep. Frank Guinta and Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, with the narrator telling the audience that both members took money from special interests, voted with their parties most of the time, and got fired by the voters. The rest of the spot praises O'Connor's independence, business background, and the fact that he's not taking money from special interests. The lines about special interest money might resonate more with Democratic voters than Republicans but beyond that, it doesn't seem like O'Connor is running a campaign that will disproportionately hurt Shea-Porter.
It's unclear how much of his fortune O'Connor will pour into this race. During his quixotic quest for the Democratic nod, O'Connor loaned his campaign $500,000, but he ended up taking most of it back, and he had just $74,000 in the bank at the end of June. Quarterly campaign finance reports are due in mid-October, so we'll find out soon if O'Connor is really putting his money where his mouth is.
● NY-19: Siena is out with the first independent poll of this Hudson Valley seat, and they give Republican John Faso a tiny 43-42 lead against Democrat Zephyr Teachout. This sample has Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton 43-38 here; Obama won this district 52-46 in 2012. Over the past month, both parties have released a poll here giving their side a 5-point lead, and this Siena survey splits the difference almost exactly.
● IL-Sen: Interestingly, though Democrat Tammy Duckworth has all the credibility in the world to talk about military credentials, she enlists a retired Army captain who castigates GOP Sen. Mark Kirk for attacking Duckworth as a narrator piles on Kirk for having "lied repeatedly" about his own military record. Separately, Duckworth shrugs off "Mark Kirk's false attacks" because she "learned in Iraq that I can take a hit and keep going." (She lost both legs.) She then calls for fairer trade deals and expanding Social Security. Meanwhile, Kirk calls Duckworth a "war hero" (wait a moment) but a "terrible public servant" who allowed veterans to be mistreated on her watch.
● IN-Sen: Senate Majority PAC features a mom who attacks GOP Rep. Todd Young for wanting to make it more expensive for her to send her kids to college.
● LA-Sen: Republican businessman Abhay Patel goes biographical (mostly talking about his dad) and calls himself an outsider.
● MO-Sen: GOP Sen. Roy Blunt says that Hillary Clinton and Jason Kander agree on every issue: expanding Obamacare, naming liberals to the Supreme Court, a new energy tax, and "amnesty for illegal immigrants."
● NV-Sen: Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto says she and her sister were the first in their family to
go to graduate from college, which is why she wants to make it cheaper for others to do the same.
● WI-Sen: A conservative group called Reform Wisconsin slams Democrat Russ Feingold for voting to keep so-called "partial-birth abortion" legal, as unclothed infants appear on screen.
● NH-Gov: The DGA hits Republican Chris Sununu for having things handed to him based on his famous family name. They target his record running his family's resort, saying he cut jobs and tried to avoid paying employees their fair share, tying it to his opposition to establishing a state minimum wage higher than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. Meanwhile, the RGA attacks Democrat Colin Van Ostern over Obamacare in an ad that deserves an Olympic gold medal for dishonesty. They claim Van Ostern brought Obamacare to the state with a context-free clip where he says he was "the deciding vote," and that he wants to make it permanent.
This framing is grade-A bullshit. Van Ostern wasn't a member of Congress and had utterly no role in bringing the whole of Obamacare to New Hampshire. It's the law of the land everywhere as a federal statute and is already permanent. What the clip actually refers to is Van Ostern saying he was the deciding vote for Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire under Obamacare, not the law itself. Republicans opposing expansion simply didn't want to give healthcare to poor people and turned down federal money to do so. Expansion is extremely popular in practically every state where it has ever been polled. Hopefully Van Ostern and Democrats are prepared to hit back hard, because this RGA ad is just shamelessly misleading.
● VT-Gov: Democrat Sue Minter says she will prioritize health care reform, jobs, and a fairer tax system if she is elected governor. The RGA in turn put $244,000 behind an ad attacking Minter over taxes that tries to tie her to outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin, claiming he was her mentor. The group also has purchased another $64,000 for a different commercial that is not available yet. Republican Phil Scott has four new spots (here, here, here, and here), which bemoan high taxes and present Scott as a problem-solver willing to work with both parties.
● CA-24: Democrat Salud Carbajal argues that Republican Justin Fareed and Donald Trump both hold outdated and dangerous views about women. House Majority PAC features several clips of Trump saying sexist things and insisting that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions, before the narrator says that Fareed also supports Trump's policies. Fareed seizes on a recent incident where Carbajal called the city of Lompoc the "armpit" of Santa Barbara County, which the narrator says just shows that Carbajal is an elitist politician.
● CA-25: Republican Rep. Steve Knight talks about helping veterans get treatment.
● FL-26: The NRCC seizes on a story that caused Democrat Joe Garcia problems during his unsuccessful 2014 re-election campaign. Garcia's former campaign manager went to prison after being convicted in a 2012 voter fraud scheme soon after Garcia took office. The narrator reminds the audience about the whole affair, and says that there's new evidence that Garcia knew more about the scandal than was previously believed.
The narrator also notes that Garcia "was caught making lewd and sexist comments about Hillary Clinton," and this time, the NRCC isn't taking things out of context. A few weeks ago, Garcia actually said that Clinton "is under no illusions that you want to have sex with her, or that she's going to seduce you."
The DCCC is out with two spots (here and here) focusing on GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo. In the first ad, they tie Curbelo to Donald Trump, arguing that they both have similar policies on immigration. In the other commercial, they say that both Trump and Curbelo are alike when it comes to the environment.
● IA-03: Democrat Jim Mowrer argues that Republican Rep. David Young wants to allow women's bosses to decide if their birth control is covered by insurance, wants to outlaw abortion even for rape victims, and wants to defund Planned Parenthood.
● IL-10: The NRCC argues that Democrat Brad Schneider backs the Obama administration's agreement with Iran, which they say makes him weak on national security. Unlike many Iran-focused ads, the GOP doesn't mention Obama at all, which makes sense since the president easily carried this seat twice. Schneider was actually an ardent opponent of the deal, which cost him some support in the Democratic primary. Schneider recently said that while he's still against the agreement, he's committed to making it work now that it's there.
● MI-01: Democrat Lon Johnson continues to argue that Republican Jack Bergman wants to privatize Social Security and move Medicare to a voucher system. He again features a clip of Bergman declaring that "we need to privatize."
● MI-08: In her first ad, Democrat Suzanna Shkreli talks about her career as a prosecutor in the child protection unit, saying she takes on "tough fights every day to stop dangerous predictors and keep our children safe."
● MN-08: Republican Stewart Mills features an Army veteran accusing Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan of voting against funding the VA but voting for his own pay raise.
● NJ-05: Democrat Josh Gottheimer's narrator calls Republican Rep. Scott Garrett "anti-gay" and "a shameless bigot," before a female paramedic tells the audience that Garrett's "no better when it comes to women." She goes on to argue that Garrett was the only New Jersey member of Congress to vote against tougher penalties for sexual predators and the Violence Against Women Act, and opposes abortion even for victims of rape and incest.
● NY-19: End Citizens United argues that Republican John Faso is a longtime politician and lobbyist who is part of a corrupt system.
● WA-07: State Sen. Pramila Jayapal, who is running in the all-Democratic general election, highlights how few women are serving in Congress. Her spot features a young girl learning that "four out of five?" members are men, and she shakes her head and declares, "Too many boys." The on-screen text then offers voters the chance to even the odds by electing Jayapal.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.