While Davis hasn't yet foisted quite such a disaster on Shelby, his Cotton Bowl spot employed some grade-school fakery to make it appear as though the senator is just a regular guy who drives himself around the state: It flipped a shot of Shelby getting out of a car to make it look like he was disembarking from the driver's side when in fact he was leaving the passenger side (sleuthed out by the part in Shelby's hair suddenly appearing on the wrong side of his face).
Shelby's troops also include pollster Jim McLaughlin, who with his brother John McLaughlin is the brains behind McLaughlin and Associates, one of the very worst polling outfits in the nation. These guys couldn't hit Canada with a cruise missile: Their remarkable poll for former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor missed the mark by 45 points. It remains the biggest blown call in a congressional race we've ever encountered.
It's easy to get rusty, easy to rely on the wrong folks, easy to conclude that money will save you. Plenty of long-time politicians have made these mistakes, and it's possible the 81-year-old Shelby, who is seeking a sixth term, is making them. At the same time, even in this turbulent age, most incumbents still prevail, and it would be unwise to view McConnell's odds as anything but long. But this race has at least some of the right ingredients for an upset, and we'll see if the full recipe comes together when the primary rolls around on March 1.
As a reminder, you can find all quarterly Senate fundraising numbers released to date on our tracker.
● IL-Sen: Napoleon Harris (D): $1 million raised (Harris has loaned money to his own campaigns in the past, but his campaign did not say if he did so this time.)
● AZ-09: Kyrsten Sinema (D-inc): $432,000 raised
● CA-31: Pete Aguilar (D-inc): $1 million cash-on-hand
● FL-18: Brian Mast (R): $204,000 raised
● CO-Sen: Does the NRSC love Jon Keyser, or does it not? While the Republican state representative from Colorado has tried to portray himself as the favorite of DC Republicans, reporting from Nathan Gonzales has suggested that Keyser's claims may be somewhat overblown. But now Politico's Burgess Everett reports that NRSC chair Roger Wicker says that Republicans have "finally landed a 'good' candidate," though that's Everett's phrasing. So who the heck knows? But Gonzales' broader point still stands: How wise is it for Keyser to sell himself as an insider in this age of outsider anger among GOP primary voters? Probably not very.
● OH-Sen: We recently discussed Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld's efforts to stop former Gov. Ted Strickland in March's Democratic primary, but it looks like he's got a long road to travel—and not much time in which to traverse it. According to a new PPP poll commissioned by the Ohio Democratic Party, Strickland has an enormous 61-10 lead on Sittenfeld, while Some Dude Kelli Prather also take 10. In a two-way race, the margin barely shifts: Strickland is up 64-15, virtually unchanged from last June. (PPP says they did not ask about the general election.)
No one's gone up on TV yet, but no matter how much Sittenfeld might spend (and it won't be a lot), he'd have to convince Strickland supporters to switch sides to even have an outside shot. That's a painful task.
● ME-Gov: As expected, Maine's Democratic-controlled state House has declined to initiate impeachment proceedings against Republican Gov. Paul LePage. On Thursday, the chamber voted to indefinitely postpone any impeachment action by a 96-52 margin, with 27 Democrats joining a unanimous Republican caucus to support the motion. While this outcome might seem disappointing, the vote shows that impeachment would have gone nowhere in the GOP-held Senate. Instead, as Carolyn Fiddler observes, Republicans will have to try defending their small majority in the chamber this fall with LePage hovering over them.
● VA-Gov: Virginia's gubernatorial race is almost two years away, but things are on the move on the GOP side. Ex-RNC Chair Ed Gillespie has unveiled endorsements from 46 of Virginia's 87 GOP state legislators, including the leaders of the state House and Senate. Gillespie is likely to compete with Rep. Rob Whitman for the GOP nod, while 2013 nominee Ken Cuccinelli and several others haven't ruled anything out. The GOP nominee will be chosen at a 2017 state party convention rather than through a primary, and convention delegates tend to prefer ideological purity over electability.
● FL-06: On Thursday, former New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer tipped us off that state Rep. Fred Costello was about to get into the race for this open seat: Barringer himself dropped out but simultaneously endorsed Costello, who wasn't even running yet. Well, now he is. Shortly after Barringer's twin moves, Costello announced that he'd join the GOP primary, which will pit him against fellow state Rep. David Santiago and Navy vet Brandon Patty.
The revised version of the 6th District that will be in effect for the 2016 elections is considerably bluer than the previous iteration: Mitt Romney carried it by a 52-47 margin, while its predecessor went for Romney by a much wider 58-41 spread. In fact, Barack Obama even won the new district back in 2008, 50-49. Still, it would be difficult for Democrats to prevail here, but they do have a non-Some Dude candidate in state Rep. Dwayne Taylor. All the notable Republican contenders only got into the race in January so if Taylor has been running a strong campaign, he'll have made good use of his months-long fundraising head start.
● FL-09: State Sen. Darren Soto continues to rack up endorsements, with another four unions, including the IBEW, getting on board on Friday. We'd like to be able to compare Soto's labor support to the other two major Democrats in the race, former congressional aide Susannah Randolph and businesswoman Dena Minning, but the "news" sections on their campaign websites are woefully out of date: Randolph's hasn't been updated since September and Minning's since August (when she crowed about earning her own Wikipedia page).
● GA-03: No Republicans have officially declared a bid for retiring Rep. Lynn Westmoreland's dark red House seat southwest of Atlanta yet, but former state Rep. Jeff Brown just said he's forming an exploratory committee and started soliciting donations. Brown's been out of the legislature for a decade, though, and the list of other Republicans who could run here is very, very long.
● MD-01: Oh man. Gravis gonna Gravis, huh? There's just no way that former state Del. Michael Smigiel is taking the precious from Rep. Andy Harris by a 58-29 margin, despite what his new poll of the GOP primary might say. We know this because Smigiel had raised all of $3,000 at the end of the third quarter last year, which is not how you beat a sitting congressman who's already won three elections.
We also know this because Gravis Marketing is the jankiest pollster in all the land, notorious for insane results. There are too many examples to choose from, but perhaps our favorite was the time they polled the race for Wisconsin treasurer in 2014 and asked respondents about the wrong candidates—because the two they did name had lost their respective primaries. Also amusing: In Smigiel's press release, Gravis describes itself as a "nonpartisan research firm." We're not sure if Gravis knows what that word actually means, since it's a little hard to claim you're not partisan when you're working for, you know, a Republican candidate.
● NC-02: So the tea party establishment is hoping to sock it to the establishment-establishment by knocking off GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers, even though five short years ago she was most definitely a member of the tea party not-at-all-establishment. Confusing, perhaps. Amusing, definitely. But regardless, Ellmers' perceived apostasies have earned her the wrath of the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, the two biggest players in the "tea party establishment" (to use Paul Kane's spot-on term), so they're backing Chatham County GOP Chair Jim Duncan's bid to boot her.
And Duncan is now out with his first television ad, in which he derides "career politicians" as "chicken," while standing next to a few bales of hay, on top of which sit a bunch of … baby chickens. Brilliant messaging this is not, though simple is usually best when it comes to politics. Again, though, it's quite entertaining to see Ellmers (who isn't mentioned by name) branded a "career politician," since she was a nurse who'd never been involved in politics before she ran for office in 2010.
Roll Call reports that the buy is for only $30,000, and we keep wondering if the deep-pocketed Club will ever actually make a move here. (The March 15 primary is not far off.) The other problem Duncan faces, as we've noted before, is that there are a couple of other candidates on the ballot, making it likelier than Ellmers could survive with just a plurality and continue enjoying her career—as a politician.
● NE-02: Republican pollster Remington Research has a new survey of the GOP primary in Nebraska's 2nd District (which they say was not conducted on anyone's behalf), and it finds former state Sen. Chip Maxwell leading retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Don Bacon 31-10. With the state's primary not until May 10, the large proportion of undecideds means that either man could wind up as the nominee, though the NRCC prefers the taste of Bacon.
This has been a very weird race, though, much as it was last cycle. Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford pretty much lucked into this seat in 2014 and has proved to be an indifferent fundraiser ever since. Yet despite this being the third-reddest district in the nation held by a Democrat, the GOP has put forth two very weak candidates of its own. (Bacon raised only $110,000 in the third quarter, and Maxwell just $7,000.) You'd think that Republicans would be clambering all over one another to take a whack at Ashford, but perhaps they prefer to wait until 2018, when they wouldn't have to face presidential headwinds.
We'll find out soon enough if any other Cornhusker State Republicans plan to run: In Nebraska, current elected officials who want to be on the 2016 ballot need to file by Feb. 16 (even if they're seeking a different office than the one they already hold), while the filing deadline for everyone else is March 1.
● NY-13: SEIU 32BJ, which represents 70,000 building workers and is one of the four most influential unions in New York City, has endorsed Assemblyman Keith Wright in the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel. The New York Post describes the move as a blow to state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who is seeking this seat for the third straight time; last cycle, 32BJ stayed neutral in what was essentially a one-on-one fight against Rangel. This year, a large group of Democrats are fighting it out for this Harlem-based seat, which is one of the bluest in America.
(Incidentally, the other major NYC unions when it comes to politics are the Hotel Trades Council, the United Federation of Teachers, and 1199 SEIU, which represents health care workers.)
● NY-22: Oswego County Clerk Michael Backus announced on Friday that he wouldn't run for New York's swingy 22nd Congressional District, which is open thanks to GOP Rep. Richard Hanna's retirement. Two other Republicans are already in the race, Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney and former Broome County Legislator George Phillips, but neither is the sort preferred by the DC establishment.
The only Democrat running, former Oneida County Legislator David Gordon, is likewise not the kind of candidate the DCCC would have much reason to like, so we can expect continued recruitment efforts on both sides. Instead, the D-Trip would rather get behind someone like Broome County Legislator Kim Myers, the daughter of Dick's Sporting Goods founder Dick Myers, who publicly expressed interest for the first time on Friday. Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is another possibility; he's been looking at the race for a while and now says he'll decide by the end of the month.
● PA-08: Businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton has picked up an endorsement from Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, who represents the nearby 17th District. Cartwright won a primary in 2012 challenging then-Rep. Tim Holden from the left after redistricting turned the 17th much bluer, but his statement in support of Naughton was entirely devoid of any ideological references. However, Cartwright is wealthy, and rich people tend to know other rich people, so he's not a bad guy to have in your corner. Naughton faces state Rep. Steve Santarsiero for the Democratic nod for this open seat. The primary is April 26.
● VA-02: The race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Scott Rigell in this swingy Hampton Roads seat is slowly taking shape. GOP Del. Scott Taylor kicked off his campaign on Friday, just a day after Rigell announced his departure. Taylor ran for this seat in 2010 and barely registered, but that was before he was elected to the legislature and became a frequent FOX guest. Taylor is a former Navy SEAL, and he's wasting no time making national security his defining campaign issue.
Taylor is unlikely to have the GOP race to himself though. There's the small matter of Rep. Randy Forbes, whose 4th District will become safely blue under the new court-drawn map. While none of Forbes' current seat wound up in the new 2nd, he does have some name recognition in the Norfolk area. Forbes' spokeswoman acknowledged that "[n]umerous calls across the state have come in" asking about his plans after Rigell made his announcement, and while she didn't say Forbes was interested in running here, she didn't do anything to take his name out of consideration. Former 2nd District Republican Committee head Gary Byler went further, and said that Forbes is "actively considering a bid for Congress in the Second District."
A number of other Republicans have been mentioned as possible candidates here, but we can cross off one big name. While Rigell said he'd back ex-state Sen. Jeff McWaters if he got in, McWaters ruled out a run after considering for about a day. No notable Democrats have publicly expressed interest, but Team Blue can't afford to leave this 51-49 Romney seat uncontested.
It's also worth noting that the local both parties have six weeks to decide if they want to choose their nominee through a traditional primary, through a convention, or through a "firehouse primary." The process each party uses could make a huge difference in determining who gets the nomination. Conventions tend to be dominated by very ideological delegates, and the party establishment often has a difficult time getting their preferred candidate through. However, as ex-Majority Leader Eric Cantor can confirm, primaries don't always go according to script either.
A firehouse primary, which is run by the party rather than the state, is sort of a cross between the two methods. There are only a few polling places in the district, and voters have just a few hours to come and cast their ballots. Firehouse primaries are open to more voters than a convention, but turnout is usually fairly light, so a candidate who can energize a small group of supporters could have a huge advantage. However, firehouse primaries aren’t necessarily bad for establishment candidates: In 2014, Barbara Comstock easily beat the ultra conservative Bob Marshall in the 10th District GOP race.
● WV State Senate: On Friday, Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin attempted to appoint a Democrat to replace former GOP state Sen. Daniel Hall, who resigned earlier this month, but the state Supreme Court blocked him from doing so after Republicans asked it to intervene. As we explained previously, state law is in conflict as to whether Hall's successor must be a Democrat (because he was first elected to office as a member of that party) or a Republican (since he later changed his affiliation once in office); you can guess how opinions divide on the matter.
The high court said it will hear oral arguments on Tuesday, after which it will decide the issue. And the stakes are high, because the GOP, which holds just an 18-16 edge in the Senate, would lose control of the chamber if Democrats prevail. But in a remarkably Trumpian rejection of democracy, Republican state Sen. Craig Blair insisted that the Senate "will not vote to seat the Democrat" even if the Supreme Court orders it to, citing the "separation of powers." Considering it was Republicans who ran to the court in the first place to stop Tomblin, that's quite a position to take.
● MO-LG: This is almost more of a "Where Are They Now?" item for nostalgia's sake, but what the hey: Former Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan is running for lieutenant governor in Missouri! Carnahan, who got crushed in a redistricting-induced primary with fellow Rep. Lacy Clay four years ago, is actually pretty feeble candidate despite his family's once-glorious political name. But because Democrats don't really have anyone well-known running, he's probably the favorite for the LG nomination. The seat is open because Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is seeking the governorship, which is elected separately from the no. 2 post.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and Stephen Wolf.