● CA-49: Six months ago, retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate was just a Some Dude challenging Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the wealthiest member of Congress. But national Democrats took notice when Applegate held Issa to just a 51-45 win in California's June top-two primary. Both Applegate and the DCCC proceeded to release polls showing the Democrat narrowly trailing Issa and on Thursday, the D-Trip dropped a survey showing Applegate ahead 46-42. Issa released his own poll in early September showing himself leading 52-38, but Issa isn't acting like an incumbent with nothing to worry about. The congressman has started running attack ads, and he loudly whined about an Applegate commercial against him, even threatening to sue his opponent.
Until recently, we were still skeptical about Applegate's chances. For all their talk about beating Issa, the DCCC wasn't spending much money to help their candidate. But the committee has now begun helping Applegate air ads, and over the last week, they reserved an additional $364,000, taking their total investment to $517,000. Politico also says that the D-Trip is planning to spend "millions" more, though most of the details are behind a paywall.
With his unlimited resources, Issa won't be easy to beat in this suburban San Diego seat. But while Romney carried this district 52-46, this is yet another affluent area where Donald Trump is unlikely to play well, and those same Democratic polls have shown Hillary Clinton winning here. With Team Blue now preparing to devoted real resources to this race, Daily Kos Elections is changing our rating from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.
3Q Fundraising: Be sure to check out our third quarter Senate fundraising chart, which we're updating as new numbers come in:
● NH-Sen: Kelly Ayotte (R-inc): $3.3 million raised, $4.5 million cash-on-hand; Maggie Hassan (D): $5.4 million raised, $3.1 million cash-on-hand
● CO-06: Morgan Carroll (D): $800,000 raised
● NV-03: Jacky Rosen (D): $580,000 raised
● NV-04: Ruben Kihuen (D): $570,000 raised
● FL-Sen: On Friday, Senate Majority PAC announced that they were cancelling their remaining $6 million reservation in Florida. Their move comes days after their allies at the DSCC cut another $1.9 million from this race, which comes on top of the $4 million they'd already axed. There are the good kinds of cancellations and the bad kinds of cancellations, and with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio posting a 46-41 lead in the Daily Kos Elections polling average, this is not the good kind as far as Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy is concerned.
Before the summer, this race looked promising for Team Blue. However, things began to change once Rubio went back on his pledge not to seek re-election to the Senate. Despite his disastrous presidential campaign, Rubio maintained a positive approval rating in most polls. Team Red was also aided by a news report that accused Murphy of inflating his personal biography. The report about Murphy's resume was overblown, but that didn't stop Republicans from running ad after ad portraying Murphy, who was still introducing himself to voters, as a rich kid without any real accomplishments.
We're not ready to call the race just yet. Murphy still has money, and the polls show that this contest isn't entirely out of reach, especially with Hillary Clinton moving into a clearer lead on Donald Trump in the Sunshine State. But Murphy probably needs a wave or some major error by Rubio to win, and that's not a good place for any candidate to be. Daily Kos Elections is therefore moving this race from Lean Republican to Likely Republican.
● IA-Sen: Democrat Patty Judge deserves enormous credit for stepping up and challenging Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley in what she knew would be a very tough race. Unfortunately, polls consistently show Grassley far ahead, with the Daily Kos Elections polling average giving him a 52-39 lead. No major outside groups from either side have spent here, and now that early voting has been going on for over a week, it seems very unlikely that any will.
A Judge win also almost certainly depended on Hillary Clinton doing well in Iowa, but our average gives Donald Trump a 43-42 lead. Clinton may still carry the Hawkeye State, but it's incredibly unlikely that she'd have long enough coattails to help Judge enough. It looks like Judge will give Grassley the closest re-election race of his career, but a win is still a win. Daily Kos Elections is taking this one off the big board and moving this race from Likely Republican to Safe Republican.
● IL-Sen: Republican Sen. Mark Kirk is out with a poll from the GS Strategy Group, but it doesn't provide him with much good news. The survey shows him trailing Democrat Tammy Duckworth 41-37, while Hillary Clinton carries Illinois 50-33. Kirk is arguing that he's running far ahead of Donald Trump, but this survey indicates that the undecideds are disproportionately Clinton voters.
Kirk dropped his poll days after a Duckworth internal gave her a strong 46-37 lead, and an independent survey from Southern Illinois University showed her up by a massive 48-34. Kirk is undoubtedly trying to convince donors, and more importantly, outside groups, that he's worth their money, but that's not going to be easy. The well-funded Senate Leadership Fund has ignored this seat entirely and left Kirk to fend for himself. The Chicago Sun-Times reported two weeks ago that the NRSC would launch a $750,000 buy to show that they believed Kirk could win, but we haven't seen any ads from them here yet at all. (Kirk's campaign says they are running commercials, though.)
National Democrats aren't quite acting like this contest is over, but they're coming close. On Monday, the DSCC axed their $600,000 ad buy that was to begin Oct. 17, something they almost certainly wouldn't do if they didn't feel good about Duckworth. Maybe Kirk will be able to persuade national Republicans to help him, but if this poll is the best thing he's got, it's going to be a tough sell.
● NC-Sen: Ex-state Rep. Deborah Ross was not the first choice of national Democrats, but she's the candidate who was willing to take on Republican Sen. Richard Burr. Despite coming into the race without being highly touted, Ross has proven to be a good fundraiser, while Republicans have expressed frustration with Burr's complacent campaign.
Team Red has attacked Ross, who served as head of the North Carolina ACLU in the 1990s, but she's demonstrated that she knows how to fight back. A few weeks ago, Burr and his allies unleashed commercials accusing Ross of opposing the creation of the state sex offender registry. Ross quickly responded with her own ad featuring ex-state Sen. Fountain Odom, who identified himself as "the sponsor of the law creating the sex-offender registry" and praised Ross for working to make the bill stronger.
If Republicans thought this issue would be a silver bullet to take out Ross, they were mistaken: The Daily Kos Elections polling average gives Burr a 43-42 lead, which is exactly where we had the race when the GOP ads began on Sept. 27. With the polls showing a very tight battle and both sides only ramping up their spending in this contest, this has now become a top-tier affair. Daily Kos Elections is changing our rating from Lean Republican to Tossup.
● OH-Sen: It's hard to understate how bleak the Ohio Senate race looks for Democrat Ted Strickland. A new PPP poll finds Republican Sen. Rob Portman up 51-36, even though Hillary Clinton leads 44-43. And unfortunately, this is far from an outlier: The Daily Kos Elections polling average shows Strickland trailing Republican Sen. Rob Portman by a brutal 51-35.
Both parties have also cancelled millions of dollars in outside spending, so Strickland has very little shot at making this competitive gain. We held out hope that a Democratic wave could still lift Strickland to victory, but even that likely won't be enough to erase a gap this huge. We've detailed the many things that have gone wrong for Team Blue here, and there's just not much to add at this point. Daily Kos Elections is moving this race from Likely Republican to Safe Republican.
● DE-Gov: With a month to go before Election Day, this open seat contest has attracted almost no attention. Only one poll has been released, and it gives Democratic Rep. John Carney a 57-25 lead over Republican state Sen. Colin Bonini. Neither the DGA nor the RGA has run any ads here, and that doesn't look like it will change. Team Blue has controlled the governor's mansion since now-Sen. Tom Carper won it in 1992, and voters in this Democratic-leaning state don't seem to have a problem with that. Daily Kos Elections is moving this race from Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic.
● WA-Gov: On behalf of KOMO News, Strategies 360 takes a look at Washington's rarely polled gubernatorial race, and finds Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee leading Republican Bill Bryant 50-40; this sample gives Hillary Clinton a 47-31 lead.
Inslee has a huge financial lead over Bryant, and national Republicans have shown no interest in spending here. Bryant did recently go up with his first general election ad, which features him attacking Inslee on traffic and toll lanes as Bryant himself is stuck in traffic. But Bryant's team tells Northwest News Network that while they've produced more commercials, they're trying to raise enough money to air them. That's not something you hear from very many winning campaigns a month away from Election Day.
● AZ-01: Republican Paul Babeu is out with a Moore Information survey, but while it shows a close race between him and Democrat Tom O'Halleran, that's about where the good news ends for Babeu. The poll gives O'Halleran a 39-36 lead, while an unreleased survey from early September gave Babeu a 41-40 edge. It's not only odd that the number of undecideds has increased in the space of a month, it's downright strange that Babeu would drop numbers showing him losing ground. (The October poll included Green Party nominee Ray Parrish, who takes 6, while he was not included in September, but the undecideds still went from 15 to 20 percent.)
Babeu's poll also includes both candidate's favorable numbers, and they show Babeu going from a 28-28 score to 27-30. According to the memo, O'Halleran's image actually improved in this time, going from 14-5 to 22-5. The poll says that Hillary Clinton went from a 1-point lead in September (they did not include the toplines) to a 40-38 deficit now, so it's even worse for Babeu if he's losing ground while Trump is making gains. (Romney won this northern Arizona seat 50-48.) The memo argues that this poll shows that Babeu is withstanding attacks against him, but it's really not a convincing case. A little over a week ago, the DCCC released their own poll showing O'Halleran up 45-38, and this is the only other survey we've seen.
It's likely that Babeu is dropping this poll in order to convince national Republicans to invest in this race. According to our House reservations chart, the NRCC recently launched a small joint ad buy with Babeu that totaled just $52,000, but neither they nor their allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund appear to have reserved any more money. By contrast, the DCCC and House Majority PAC have reserved a total of $2.8 million here.
Team Blue has been airing commercials highlighting the child abuse that happened under Babeu's watch at a Massachusetts school he once ran; Babeu has denied that he knew what was happening, but court documents, the testimony of his former students, and Babeu's own words contradict that. Early voting begins on Oct. 12, so national Republicans don't have much time left if they want to help Babeu. But that's a big if: It's very possible that they've decided that the scandal-tarred county sheriff just isn't a good investment.
● CA-10: Obama carried this Modesto seat 51-47 in 2012, but Republican Rep. Jeff Denham turned back a highly touted Democratic candidate and pulled off an even wider 53-47 victory that year. We've been skeptical that beekeeper Michael Eggman, who lost to Denham 56-44 during the 2014 GOP wave, would see a different outcome this year's rematch, and we still think Denham has a clear edge.
However, over the summer, the DCCC released a poll showing Denham up just 46-43, and they're putting their money where their mouths are. This week, the D-Trip threw down a considerable $791,000 on an ad campaign tying Denham to Donald Trump. This seat has a large Hispanic population, so those attacks could cause Denham quite a few problems, especially if Hillary Clinton improves on Obama's performance here.
Denham himself released a poll in early September showing him up by a wide 57-35, and so far, national Republicans don't appear to be spending to defend him. Denham is also a well-funded candidate who has already proven that he can win under tough conditions. But the D-Trip is showing that they have confidence in Eggman in both word and deed, and we agree that an upset is now looking a lot more possible. Daily Kos Elections is moving this contest from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.
● CA-21: While Republican Rep. David Valadao sits in a Central Valley seat that backed Obama 55-44, national Democrats have largely ignored this contest. While the DCCC added Emilio Huerta to their Emerging Races list in July, they have yet to upgrade him to the top-tier Red to Blue program, nor do they appear to have reserved any ad time here. However, their allies at House Majority PAC are now testing the waters. On Friday, HMP launched a $390,000 ad campaign with the American Federation of Teachers against Valadao.
Their spot features a narrator saying that Valadao insisted he would "'absolutely' support Donald Trump. The commercial goes on to argue the two want to slash education funding, and that Trump denied water is a problem in California. The rest of the commercial praises Huerta's work for the United Farm Workers.
This seat, which stretches from the Fresno area to Bakersfield, is 74 percent Hispanic, so linking Valadao to Trump is probably the right strategy. However, Huerta hasn't been a strong fundraiser (though we're still waiting on his third quarter totals), which helps explain why national Democrats haven't shown much interest here until now. Hopefully, the HMP and AFT buy is a sign that things are changing, and that Team Blue smells an opportunity here.
● CA-25: This seat, which is nested in the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles, backed Romney just 50-48, and this is the type of affluent suburban area where Donald Trump is unlikely to do well. National Democrats have talked up attorney Bryan Caforio for a while, and over the summer, the DCCC released a poll showing Republican Rep. Steve Knight only up 46-40. Until recently, though, there was little outside spending, but that's changed. According to the Los Angeles Times, the DCCC has launched a seven-figure buy, while the NRCC has begun spending $625,000 for Knight.
D-Trip is also out with their first commercial, which features a clip of Knight declaring, "I am pro-life, I don't make exception," with the narrator arguing that Knight wouldn't even allow abortions for victims or rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother. Those kinds of extreme views are undoubtedly out-of-step with many voters here. And that's not the only thing Democrats can attack him for. For instance, a few months ago, Knight declared that, "I think that Social Security was a bad idea. I do. I absolutely think it was a bad idea."
We still think Knight has the edge, but both parties' decision to spend here is a good sign for Caforio, and Knight remains a weak fundraiser. Daily Kos Elections is moving this contest from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.
● FL-07: Republican Rep. John Mica and the NRCC have belatedly decided to respond to a mid-September DCCC poll that showed him leading Democrat Stephanie Murphy just 48-45. Team Red's poll, which was done by Cherry Communications, shows him leading by a huge 52-34 margin. Their poll was conducted Sept. 13-15, which are the exact same days that the Democratic survey was in the field.
There's no way to reconcile those two numbers, though we'll note that while Team Blue's poll showed Hillary Clinton leading in this suburban Orlando seat 47-41, the GOP poll didn't include any presidential toplines. Both polls were also conducted before House Majority PAC and the DCCC began airing ads against Mica. The two Democratic groups have reserved a combined $3.8 million; so far, the only thing the NRCC has done is help Mica pay for an $8,000 ad.
● NJ-05: GOP Rep. Scott Garrett has always been a conservative extremist badly out of step with even his Republican-leaning district, but he'd never faced a challenger with the resources to call him out on it. Now, though, Democrat Josh Gottheimer, a former aide to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, has taken full advantage of the fact that Garrett's old allies in the financial industry have finally had enough of the congressman's anti-gay bigotry, and Gottheimer's emerged as one of the top House fundraisers anywhere.
Over the summer, the race grew hot, as Democratic groups released polls showing Garrett with small leads. And on Tuesday, House Majority PAC dropped a bomb of a survey that gave Gottheimer a 48-41 lead. Garrett still hasn't responded with better numbers. And it hasn't just been about money. Gottheimer's proven to be an agile campaigner, too. Last month, he ran an attention-grabbing spot 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, a potent issue in this area.
Garrett offered up only a weak response, and Gottheimer proceeded to continue hammering the incumbent over his ultra-conservative views. Team Blue definitely sniffs blood: Between Sept. 21 and Sept. 29, the DCCC reserved $1.1 million here. And the GOP seems to smell that same blood, too, since national Republican groups have left the troublesome Garrett to fend for himself.
Donald Trump is also unlikely to be of any use to Garrett. While Mitt Romney carried this seat 51-48, this is exactly the type of affluent suburban area where The Donald is horrifically unpopular. Indeed, the polls Team Blue has released show Hillary Clinton leading here. Garrett can still win, but with national winds blowing in his face and with a well-funded opponent who isn't afraid to go for the jugular, Daily Kos Elections is moving this race from Lean Republican to Tossup.
● NY-03: Confirming our report on Thursday, State of Politics says that NRCC has indeed pulled out of the race for Long Island's swingy 3rd District, a seat left open due to Democratic Rep. Steve Israel's retirement. According to our ad reservations tracker, the NRCC reduced its bookings from about $1.1 million to just $100,000, and it's certainly possible they'll cancel that final pittance, too.
That's terrible news for GOP state Sen. Jack Martins, who acknowledged that the NRCC "has many races they are focused on" and plaintively said he's "looking forward to more support in the final month of this race as they continue to prioritize their races." Barring a catastrophe, that's not going to happen. Democrat Tom Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive, has held wide leads in both his own polling and a DCCC survey, and Republicans have never coughed up contradictory numbers. In fact, Democrats have appeared so confident about this seat that neither the DCCC nor any other outside groups have made any TV reservations here.
As a result, we're moving this race from Tossup to Lean Democratic. Israel, a former DCCC chair, did his party a huge service by calling it quits in a presidential year, when turnout makes it easier to hold a district like this. (Other Democrats considering retirement in the near future should take heed.) And on top of that, Democrats also have a great shot at picking up Martins' seat in the state Senate, so good news all around.
● NC-Sen: SEIU and AFSCME paint Republican Sen. Richard Burr as creature of Washington who opposed banning insider trading by members of Congress. They note he held oil and gas stocks while supporting legislation favoring those industries after they backed his campaigns.
● NV-Sen: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce features popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval endorsing Republican Joe Heck.
● PA-Sen: Senate Majority PAC hits Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for being a rich guy who, as a Banking Committee member, voted against financial regulations to benefit Wall Street and banks, noting Toomey himself had a large ownership stake in a bank at the time. Ocean Champions hits Toomey for supporting billions in big oil tax breaks while taking hundreds of thousands in donations from those companies, before pivoting to tout Democrat Katie McGinty as a friend of the environment.
● NC-Gov: Democrat Roy Cooper lays out what would be his priorities as governor: education, ending tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs, and making the rich pay their fair share in taxes.
● CA-24: Republican Justin Fareed continues his odd use of imagery by comparing the government to a growing snowball, promising to "drop [it] into a frying pan," before finishing up with "we'll talk more later."
● CO-06: Republican Rep. Mike Coffman touts his military service and his work on behalf of veterans.
● IA-03: Democrat Jim Mowrer and the DCCC attack Republican Rep. David Young for taking special interest money from lobbyists.
● MN-08: Republican Stewart Mills attacks Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan for supposedly cutting Medicare benefits while raising his own pay. This is a common line of attack from Republicans, and it is total bullshit.
In 2014, Congress passed their annual so-called "doc fix" to prevent a steep 24 percent cut to Medicare providers—not beneficiaries—but before the final bill prevailed, House Republicans passed a separate proposed fix with a poison pill to cut Obamacare, which Democrats almost all balked at. Democrats later supported the final bipartisan measure to avoid those same steep provider cuts. This bogus charge reeks of hypocrisy too, because Congressional Republicans themselves overwhelmingly support Speaker Paul Ryan's plan to privatize and cut Medicare, which would lead to lower benefits.
● NY-19: We've repeatedly said that it's almost always a bad idea to repeat your opponent's attacks in an ad rebutting them, and now Democrat Zephyr Teachout gets to see why. The Congressional Leadership Fund highlights footage from Teachout's recent ad calling the charge that she wants to raise property taxes "crazy" before showing a clip of her opposing Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's property-tax cap when she was running against him in the 2014 gubernatorial primary.
● NY-22: Democrat Kim Meyers is out with two spots (here and here). The first one attacks Republican Claudia Tenney for blocking jobs in the region and praises Myers' record on jobs and helping small businesses. In the second one, Myers touts her track record in public service to emphasize how fiscally responsible she is.
● PA-08: The NRCC attacks Democrat Steve Santarsiero over taxes once again, though this time without the hokey "Bad Santa" name-play.
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.