● NH-Sen: Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte stepped in it big time on Monday during her debate with Democratic challenger Maggie Hassan. Ayotte has tried to have it both ways regarding Donald Trump: She maintains she doesn't endorse him, but says she'll vote for him anyway in what can only be described as pretzel logic. Given the absurd distinction Ayotte has tried to maintain, her answer to whether Trump was a role model for kids to look up to came as a shock:
"I think that certainly there are many role models that we have," Ayotte answered awkwardly. "I believe he can serve as president, so absolutely, I would [say he's a role model]"
This is the same Trump who has made so many racist and sexist comments that Hillary Clinton has used them to literally run ads on how he's a terrible role model for children. Polls give Clinton a clear lead in New Hampshire, something Ayotte implicitly acknowledges when she tries to keep Trump at arms length. She quickly realized after the debate just how big of a mistake she made and tried to walk back her comments, claiming she misspoke, but this gaffe is on video and dominated news coverage of the debate.
Many Democratic candidates running for Congress this year have found that attacks on Trump just aren't as effective as progressives would like them to be. Soft partisans and Republican-leaning voters simply don't view Trump as a byproduct of irresponsible establishment Republican extremism, even though he is. Thus, many of these Democrats like Hassan have instead focused their fire on more conventional lines of attack, like lambasting Ayotte for voting against wildly popular gun background checks.
However, Ayotte calling Trump a role model in this debate could easily make its way into a campaign ad, and given her past equivocation about supporting Trump, it might be particularly effective in this instance. With Ayotte and Hassan deadlocked 47-47 in the Huffpost Pollster average, any gaffe like this could make a crucial difference in one of the key races that could decide which party controls the Senate.
3Q Fundraising: Be sure to check out our third quarter Senate fundraising chart, which we'll be updating as new numbers come in.
● FL-Sen: Marco Rubio (R-inc): $9 million raised, an additional $600,000 raised for the Marco Rubio Victory Committee
● OH-Sen: Rob Portman (R-inc): $3.5 million raised, $7.6 million cash-on-hand
● IA-03: David Young (R-inc): $560,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
● Polls: Senate and gubernatorial roundup:
● IL-Sen: Southern Illinois University: Tammy Duckworth (D) 48, Mark Kirk (R-inc) 34 (53-28 Clinton)
● NC-Sen: Elon University: Deborah Ross (D) 44, Richard Burr (R-inc) 43 (45-39 Clinton) (Sept.: 44-43 Ross)
● NC-Gov: Elon University: Roy Cooper (D) 48, Pat McCrory (R-inc) 44 (45-39 Clinton) (Sept.: 49-46 McCrory)
● NV-Sen: Hart Research for UNLV Boyd School of Law: Joe Heck (R) 47, Catherine Cortez Masto (D) 46 (44-41 Clinton)
● PA-Sen: Franklin & Marshall: Katie McGinty (D) 41, Pat Toomey (R-inc) 35 (47-38 Clinton) (Sept.: 43-38 McGinty)
● PA-Sen: Monmouth: Toomey (R-inc) 46, Katie McGinty (D) 46 (50-40 Clinton) (Aug.: 45-41 McGinty)
This set of polls gives Democrats some modestly good news. Perhaps best of all for Democrats downballot is that Hillary Clinton has the lead in each survey: If she can maintain her edge, Senate and gubernatorial candidates will need fewer crossover votes to win. In North Carolina, Elon actually finds Democrats leading in all three of races for president, Senate, and governor, something few other polls have found. Southern Illinois University's first general election survey in that state's Senate race looks a bit too rosy for Team Blue, since even Democrat Tammy Duckworth's recent internal polling only had her up by 46-37, but both parties are acting like Duckworth has a solid lead regardless.
Nevada is more of a mixed bag, with Republican Joe Heck stubbornly clinging to a narrow lead, in line with his polling average edge of 43-40. In Pennsylvania, Franklin & Marshall continue to find Democrat Katie McGinty ahead by mid-single digits, but still with their typically high amount of undecideds. Meanwhile, Monmouth finds her 45-41 lead from August narrowing to a tie with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. However, if the poll's other finding of Clinton leading 50-40 is true, that's a pretty tough hole for Toomey to climb out of when undecideds favor Clinton, and most recent Senate polls haven't found such a large difference from the presidential race.
● DE-Gov: The race to replace termed-out Democratic Gov. Jack Markell has gotten very little attention this year, and that's unlikely to change. The University of Delaware is out with the first public poll of this entire contest, and it gives Democratic Rep. John Carney a huge 57-25 lead over Republican state Sen. Colin Bonini; this sample gives Hillary Clinton a 51-30 lead in Delaware.
Note that this poll was conducted over a long 13-day period. However, neither national party has aired any ads here or shown any real interest in getting involved. Team Red hasn't won a gubernatorial race in the state since Mike Castle was re-elected in 1988, and that losing streak looks like it's going to continue for a while longer.
● MT-Gov: Montana's September fundraising reports are now out for both parties. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock raised $282,000 and has about $1 million left on0hand. Republican Greg Gianforte brought in $227,000, but also plopped down an additional $1.5 million of his own money, leaving him with $224,000 on-hand. Gianforte is extremely wealthy and has so far pumped $3.2 million of his personal fortune into the race, which goes a long way in a small state like Montana. He spent roughly $1.8 million last month, while Bullock spent a far more meager $538,000.
However, Bullock, who previously chaired the DGA, can count on their support to back him up. A DGA-affiliated PAC spent $1 million on his behalf last month, bringing their total contribution to $2.84 million. Despite Gianforte's self-funding, he has also received outside support. The RGA dropped $770,000 in September to prop him up, bringing their total expenditures for the year to $1.27 million.
Montana is a conservative-leaning state that is likely to favor Donald Trump, and Bullock subsequently needs a large share of crossover votes to win as a Democrat. Despite that, there have astoundingly been utterly zero general election polls here, even with Election Day just five weeks away. What few surveys we have from earlier in the cycle gave Bullock a strong approval rating, but often times that simply isn't enough to overcome hostile partisanship. Both parties are acting like this race is quite competitive, but without any new polling to give us a different picture, Daily Kos Elections still rates it as Lean Democratic.
● NJ-Gov: On Tuesday, GOP Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli announced that he would run for governor next year. Aside from businessman Joseph Rullo, who took just 8 percent of the vote in the 2012 Senate primary, Ciattarelli, a vocal critic of termed-out Gov. Chris Christie, is the first Republican candidate to officially enter the race. However, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, and state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. have all made noises about getting in. Ciattarelli's reputation as a moderate would likely be an asset if he makes it to the general, but it could cause him trouble in a primary.
● VT-Gov: September fundraising reports are out for both candidates. Democrat Sue Minter leads Republican Phil Scott with $374,000 raised and over $200,000 on-hand compared to Scott's $226,000 raised and $128,000 on-hand. Minter spent $209,000 last month, three-quarters of it on ads, while Scott spent a fairly similar $212,000, but less than half of it on media. He thus far hasn't aired any general election TV ads, and four spots we reported last week have turned out to be web-only segments that haven't aired yet.
However, Republicans aren't at risk of being outspent overall, thanks to the RGA, which dropped $700,000 here in September, in addition to more than $500,000 in August. They have touted Scott and recently began attacking Minter over taxes and her ties to outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. The DGA hasn't had quite the same presence and spent just $370,000 last month. Polling has been infrequent here, but both parties are spending like they have a chance to win. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.
● CA-10: While the DCCC released a poll at the end of August giving Republican Rep. Jeff Denham just a small 46-43 lead over Democrat Michael Eggman, the committee didn't follow up by airing any commercials in this Modesto seat. However, that's changing a little. The DCCC is now helping Eggman pay for a new spot: Their commercial calls Denham "Trump's man in Washington," and argues that "When Trump wanted to turn a taxpayer-owned building into an $800 a night hotel, Denham helped broker the deal…and bragged about it." The second half of the ad praises Eggman as a local farmer who will stand up to Trump.
It's unclear if the D-Trip plans to air their own commercials in this 51-47 Obama seat. According to our House reservations chart, the DCCC has reserved $5.9 million in the Sacramento media market, but the money isn't specifically earmarked for either this seat or for the 7th District, where Democratic Rep. Ami Bera has a competitive re-election campaign. There's no question that much of the $5.9 million will go to helping Bera, but we don't know yet if Team Blue also plans to spend some of it against Denham, or if they still haven't decided how to divide it between the two seats. We also don't know how much the DCCC or Eggman have put behind this ad. Still, Team Blue's decision to get involved is at least a good indication that they're interested in seriously targeting Denham.
● IA-01: Freshman Rep. Rod Blum may have started this cycle competing for the unwelcome title of most vulnerable Republican in the House, but it looks like he's in a much better place now. Blum is out with another poll from the bizarrely named "the polling company, inc./WomanTrend," which is run by Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, and it gives him a huge 52-36 lead over Democrat Monica Vernon. The sample gives Hillary Clinton a 39-37 lead here.
Two months ago, Blum released a survey giving him a smaller, though still notable, 50-43 lead. Last week, Loras College also dropped a poll showing Blum up 45-38 even as Clinton took the 1st 42-33. Vernon and her allies haven't released their own numbers, and Vernon's response to this latest poll is not encouraging. Vernon told the Cedar Rapids Rotary Club that, "Over the last few years, it's difficult to get a good study because of the proliferation of cellphones and people who won't answer landlines. So it's a goofy time. There will be more noise in the system. More sway." That's not "The only poll that matters is on Election Day," but it's close.
Vernon used to do market research, and she's right that polling has gotten more difficult. Still, Vernon released a primary poll of her own last year, so she's not exactly averse to polling in this day and age. If Vernon has seen more unfavorable numbers and she's just hoping that they're wrong, that's not at all a good sign.
● IN-09: On behalf of the DCCC, Global Strategy Group takes a look at this southern Indiana seat and gives Republican Trey Hollingsworth just a 44-42 lead over Democrat Shelli Yoder. This sample gives Donald Trump a 50-43 edge here. A late May survey from Yoder's campaign showed a 41-41 tie, while the GSG poll refers to an unseen August poll that showed Yoder down 9 points (the toplines were not provided).
Romney carried this seat 57-41, and John McCain took it 53-46 even as he was narrowly losing Indiana in 2008, so those presidential toplines feel too optimistic for Team Blue. There haven't been many presidential polls released for the Hoosier State, but Hillary Clinton's campaign hasn't made Indiana a target, so it seems unlikely that she'll get close to Obama's 2008 margin statewide or in the 9th. This seat also has a smaller proportion of college graduates than the nation as a whole, so it shouldn't be unfriendly turf for Donald Trump.
Hollingsworth only moved to Indiana last year just before he launched his campaign, which could give Yoder an opening. The DCCC added Yoder to their Red to Blue list for top-tier candidates in July, and she's raised a credible amount of money. However, Hollingsworth and his family are wealthy, so cash won't be a problem for Team Red. National Democratic groups don't appear to have made any reservations here yet to aid Yoder: The DCCC is clearly interested in this race, but we'll want to see if they're ready to put their money where their mouth is.
● NJ-05: Garin-Hart-Yang is out with a poll for House Majority PAC, and they give Democrat Josh Gottheimer a 48-41 lead over Republican Rep. Scott Garrett. According to the memo, an unreleased August poll had Garrett leading 50-42, while in April, Garrett posted a 52-33 edge. This sample has Hillary Clinton leading by 5, though they didn't disclose the actual topline. While Romney won this North Jersey seat 51-48, this is a very affluent and well-educated area that's unlikely to favor Donald Trump. In August and September, the DCCC released polls giving Garrett 2-point leads; Team Red has yet to respond with their own numbers.
It seems unlikely that the contest has swing 15 points in the Democrats' direction in just two months, but there have been developments here that could have helped Gottheimer. Gottheimer, a former aide to both Clintons, ran an attention-grabbing spot in September starring retired New Jersey police chief Joe Zadroga, whose son James died of respiratory disease after participating in the rescue efforts at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks. The elder Zadroga eviscerated Garrett for his incomprehensible votes against a bill named in his son's honor that provided health care to 9/11 first responders—indeed, Garrett was the only member of New Jersey's congressional delegation to oppose the law.
Garrett put up only a weak response ad, and Gottheimer proceeded to continue hammering the incumbent over his ultra-conservative views. Those commercials probably weren't enough to cause Garrett to collapse, but Team Blue definitely smells blood: Between Sept. 21 and Sept. 29, the DCCC reserved $1.1 million here.
Garrett's allies in the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus recently urged the NRCC to help him: Ironically, part of the reason that Garrett is in trouble is that he offended business groups when he refused to help the NRCC over the group's support for openly gay candidates. So far, the Congressional Leadership Fund has reserved $372,000, though that's not a huge sum for a seat in the expensive New York City media market, and there's no word if the NRCC is willing to spend to help Garrett.
● NV-03: Last week, the DCCC dropped a poll giving Democrat Jacky Rosen a 40-37 lead over Republican Danny Tarkanian, with Hillary Clinton leading 46-38 in a suburban Las Vegas seat that Obama took 50-49. (We wrote last week that Rosen led by a stronger 48-41 margin; however, the memo says that she led by just 3 when third-party candidates were included, and by 7 in just a head-to-head match with Tarkanian.) The NRCC and Tarkanian released a poll from the Tarrance Group days later, and it has Tark up 42-37 with third parties included, while Donald Trump takes the 3rd 43-40. The sample also gives Republican Joe Heck, who represents this seat in the House, a wide 52-42 lead in the Senate race.
Interestingly, a Tarrance Group survey from late August gave Tarkanian a gaudy 46-34 lead, so he's slipped quite a bit in his own poll. But while we at least know that Tarkanian's huge lead is gone (of more likely, that it never really existed), this contest remains tough to get a handle on. Polls usually show Hillary Clinton running behind Barack Obama's 52-46 performance in Nevada, so it makes sense if Tarrance is right and she's losing the 3rd.
However, this suburban seat has a much higher median income than the nation as a whole, so it's also possible that Clinton will improve on Obama's narrow win in the 3rd even if she does worse statewide. Nevada polling also underestimated Team Blue in 2008, 2010, and 2012. With each party releasing a survey giving their side a small lead and both sides continuing to spend heavily on ads, this race has all the makings of a tossup.
● NY-24: Siena is out with a truly sucky poll for Team Blue in this Syracuse seat. Republican Rep. John Katko posts a 53-34 lead over Democrat Colleen Deacon, even though Hillary Clinton leads 45-33 here. Obama took this seat 57-41, so these presidential numbers don't feel unreasonable. Siena also tested the uncompetitive U.S. Senate race and gave Democratic incumbent Chuck Schumer a 62-28 lead over Republican Wendy Long, which is similar to the 65-32 victory that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand scored here against Long in 2012. And even if this sample is a bit more conservative than the general electorate will be next month, Katko is still in a very good place.
This is the first poll we've seen of this contest, and we'll see if Team Blue happens to have better numbers lying around. But while Siena hardly has an unblemished track record, it may be just too much to hope that they're horrifically off this time. DCCC also only has $294,000 reserved, a pretty modest sum for a competitive House race. The D-Trip's allies at House Majority PAC have a larger $391,000 reservation, but it's not earmarked for either this district or NY-22.
The one bit of good news for Deacon is that the NRCC seems to be taking her seriously. The group added $179,000 to their reservation between Sept. 21 and Sept. 29, taking their total planned spending to $1.7 million; the Congressional Leadership Fund has also reserved $351,000 here. The NRCC is also out with a new ad arguing that Deacon is just a puppet of national Democrats. It's certainly fugly for Deacon if Katko and his allies are badly outspending her on the airwaves, but at least they're not acting like they've beaten her already.
● UT-04: Republican Rep. Mia Love is out with a poll from Y2 Analytics giving her a 55-35 lead over Democrat Doug Owens. Her campaign did not release a memo, but Y2 tells us over email that the poll was conducted Sept. 21-24 and sampled 400 likely voters. In July, Love also released a Y2 poll giving her a 51-36 lead. Two weeks ago, an independent survey from Dan Jones & Associates also found Love leading by a similar 53-35 margin. While a SurveyUSA poll all the way back in June had Owens leading 51-45, no one has released any good numbers for Team Blue since then.
● IL-Sen: Independent Voice for Illinois is spending at least $141,000 on a spot arguing that Democrat Tammy Duckworth did a poor job running the state VA.
● IN-Sen: People praise Democrat Evan Bayh for protecting local auto jobs. Weirdly, the spot ends with a guy proclaiming, "I'm a Hoosier, proud to be one, and so was Evan Bayh." Wait, was a Hoosier? The commercial probably means that Bayh was a Hoosier during his time in the Senate, but the phrasing is weird. Bayh has enough problems with Republicans spending millions on ads arguing that he abandoned Indiana for Washington; he doesn't need to make their job any easier. The NRSC argues Bayh is with Hillary Clinton, not Indiana.
● LA-Sen: Republican Rep. Charles Boustany touts his background as a heart surgeon, arguing that that job requires "ruthless accountability," and a senator also needs to be accountable.
Both of the notable Democratic candidates are also up with their first TV ads. Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell talks about his humble origins and tells the audience that he has the support of Gov. John Bel Edwards. Attorney Caroline Fayard lays out her agenda to a classroom full of children. The message is fine, but the image of the kids standing almost completely still and smiling just looks unnatural (and judging by the looks on some of the children's faces, more than a little uncomfortable), and it comes off as a little unsettling.
● MO-Sen: The Senate Leadership Fund continues to argue that Democrat Jason Kander is a down-the-line liberal who offers a "carbon copy" of Hillary Clinton's "status-quo agenda."
● NC-Sen: The DSCC says that while regular people would make other's lives better if they were in the Senate, Republican Sen. Richard Burr only helped the insurance industry in order to help himself.
● NH-Sen: Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte argues that Democrat Maggie Hassan doesn't have the experience to keep the country safe, and that she backs the Iran nuclear deal.
● NV-Sen: The Senate Leadership Fund continues to argue that when she was state attorney general, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto failed to deal with a backlog of untested rape kits.
As we've noted before, Cortez Masto has said that during her tenure, she laid the legal groundwork for the state's settlement with J.P. Morgan over its abusive lending practices. Money from that settlement (which was finalized under current GOP Attorney General Adam Laxalt) was then used to help clear the rape kit backlog.
However, Cortez Masto's campaign doesn't appear to have aired any ads focusing on this. It's possible that her camp has decided that there's no good way to run a commercial on this without further spreading the SLF's charges. The narrator in this SLF ad also begins by referring to "attorney generals" instead of "attorneys general," which pisses us off in a completely different way. However, the on-screen text is correct.
On the other side, the DSCC continues to argue that Republican Joe Heck endangered women's health by trying to defund Planned Parenthood.
● PA-Sen: The Senate Leadership Fund continues to portray Democrat Katie McGinty as a corrupt bureaucrat. The SEIU is spending $1.1 million arguing that Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is in the pocket of special interests; they include a clip of Toomey declaring, "I think the solution is to eliminate corporate taxes altogether."
● NC-Gov: Republican Gov. Pat McCrory argues that during his tenure, North Carolina's economy went from awful to awesome.
● WV-Gov: Democrat Jim Justice argues that Republican Bill Cole used his power as state Senate president to pass laws helping his car dealerships but hurting consumers. The narrator says that Cole tried to repeal the state's Lemon law, which entitles an owner of a "lemon" car to a refund or replacement. The rest of the spot argues that Cole has been "repeatedly sued for faulty vehicles and lying about car history." The RGA continues to tie Justice to Hillary Clinton.
● CA-07: The NRCC attacks Democratic Rep. Ami Bera over his father's conviction for trying to illegally funnel money to Bera's campaign. The ad frames the younger Bera as complicit, but investigators said there wasn't any evidence the congressman knew of his father's scheme. The ad pivots to touting Republican Scott Jones' leadership as Sacramento County sheriff.
● CA-10: In this Spanish-language spot, Democrat Michael Eggman and the DCCC play some of Trump's offensive statements, using them to criticize Republican Rep. Jeff Denham for not speaking out against Trump.
● CA-49: Democrat Doug Applegate slams Republican Rep. Darrell Issa and Tea Party Republicans for voting against health care for 9/11 first-responders.
● CO-06: The NRCC lambasts Democrat Morgan Carroll for increasing spending and taxes as a state senator.
● FL-13: House Majority PAC attacks Republican Rep. David Jolly for taking thousands from Duke Energy while voters keep paying for a power plant that won't be built.
● FL-18: The Congressional Leadership Fund hammers Democrat Randy Perkins for profiteering off of tragedy with his disaster-relief company. The NRCC joins in and accuses Perkins of similar charges, while also claiming he disrespected veterans with attacks on Republican Brian Mast.
● IA-01: The NRCC hits Democrat Monica Vernon over taxes and increasing her own pay. Meanwhile, Vernon and the DCCC slam Blum for false attacks, claiming she donated her salary increases to charity while Blum kept his whole salary after first promising he would take only take half of it. She closes out by noting he wants to cut Social Security raise the retirement age.
● IL-10: Republican Rep. Bob Dold! blames Both Sides™ for what's wrong with Washington, touting his independence and bipartisanship.
● ME-02: House Majority PAC hits Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin for being a "Wall Street millionaire" who claimed he was a logger solely to avoid taxes on a multi-million dollar waterfront property.
● MI-01: The NRCC attacks Democrat Lon Johnson for being "proud of Obamacare," using the misleading claim of $700 billion in cuts to Medicare, even though those were to providers only, not beneficiaries. House Majority PAC has two spots that hit Republican Jack Bergman for wanting to privatize Social Security and supporting trade deals. Their spots are otherwise identical, except one says Bergman is wrong for Northern Michigan while the other says the Upper Peninsula instead.
● MI-06: Democrat Paul Clements highlights his biography and says he'll fight for solutions for everyday people.
● MN-02: House Majority PAC and the American Federation of Teachers hit Republican Jason Lewis over the many atrocious things he has said during his conservative radio career.
● MN-08: The NRCC slams Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan as being weak on national security and fighting ISIS. House Majority PAC attacks Republican Stewart Mills over saying he was personally offended by the notion that the wealthy don't pay their fair share in taxes, noting that he wants to privatize Social Security, raise the retirement age, and cut benefits.
● NE-02: House Majority PAC attacks Republican Don Bacon for wanting to cut Social Security by raising the retirement age.
● NV-03: The NRCC calls out Democrat Jacky Rosen for supporting Obamacare.
● NV-04: The NRCC slams Democrat Ruben Kihuen for backing "the largest tax hike in Nevada's history," which they of course neglect to mention was a signature accomplishment of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Republican-controlled legislature.
● NY-19: The NRCC attacks Democrat Zephyr Teachout over President Obama's Iran nuclear deal.
● NY-22: The NRCC hits Democrat Kim Meyers and right-leaning independent Martin Babinec for cozying up to Clinton and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
● TX-23: The NRCC paints Democratic ex-Rep. Pete Gallego as a consummate Washington insider who will be Nancy Pelosi's stooge if he returns to office.
● VA-10: The NRCC claims Democrat LuAnn Bennett is a Washington insider who took a "sweetheart deal" requiring her to build a preschool in D.C., but instead turned it into a parking lot after pocketing $30 million in tax breaks, yet they omitted key details.
In 1990, D.C. broke many of its development agreements, and Bennett acquired the vacant property in a legal settlement, which required any development project to also include a preschool. It went undeveloped for two decades, during most of which the city let Bennett sublease it to the federal government to use as parking, until she turned it into a multi-purpose development including a Walmart in 2011. Bennett's company didn't have to pay property taxes during that time period, which certainly doesn't look great, but isn't quite as bad as the NRCC makes it seem.
● WI-08: Democrat Tom Nelson uses clips of Republican Mike Gallagher speaking to argue the latter opposes raising the minimum wage and wants tax cuts for big corporations.
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.