Gallego stands in a courtroom and looks directly at the camera and declares that when he worked as a prosecutor, he was tough, but fair. He continues by noting, "Courageous leaders in both parties have spoken out. That Donald Trump must never be our commander in chief. Congressman Hurd waited until it was too late to speak out about Donald Trump." A narrator then jumps in and says, "Even after Trump insulted Hispanics, women, people with disabilities, and military families." Gallego comes back and says he believes "in country, not party, first."
Texas' 23rd, which stretches from San Antonio to the El Paso area, backed Mitt Romney 51-48. However, this seat has a huge Hispanic population, and Trump was a liability for Hurd here even before Friday. Still, plenty of other Democrats in competitive races have chosen not to tie their opponents to Trump. Democratic field tests have reportedly shown that this just hasn't been an effective line of attack in many contests, on account of swing voters believing that Trump is too extreme to actually reflect the entire GOP.
But now that the Trump campaign is imploding as never before and Republican politicians are scrambling to explain why they supported Trump until the final month of the campaign, Democrats have an opportunity to shift the conversation. Both Hassan and Gallego's ads show how it can be done. Hassan's spot mostly lets Trump make the case against himself, and leaves the viewer wondering how Ayotte could ever have supported him in the first place. Gallego's commercial makes opposition to Trump a moral case, and argues that Hurd had his chance to do the right thing and failed. The same can be said about almost every other Republican politician in America.
● IN-Gov: Eric Holcomb (R): $7.7 million raised (since July), $2.8 million cash-on-hand
● VA-05: Jane Dittmar (D): $470,000 raised, $239,000 cash-on-hand
● FL-Sen, OH-Sen: On Friday night, Politico reported that the DSCC made further cuts in the Florida Senate race, hours after Senate Majority PAC canceled their entire remaining reservation. The DSCC now only has ad time booked for the final week of the contest to support Patrick Murphy, who trails Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the polls. The DSCC has also pulled the plug on whatever remained of its Ohio reservation. Polls universally show Ted Strickland in a dire position against GOP Sen. Rob Portman, and Daily Kos Elections recently moved this once-promising race to Safe Republican.
● NC-Sen: One of the most shameful sorts of GOP attack ads are those that go after attorneys for the clients they've represented. They're an assault on our very system of justice, but that's never stopped cynical Republicans. Indeed, that's exactly the approach the NRSC taking in its latest ad, which claims that Democrat Deborah Ross "chose to defend Andre Green, after he broke into his neighbor's home, brutally raping her while her child watched." The obvious implication here is that someone accused of a terrible crime does not deserve legal representation, which is disgusting, but what else is new?
What's more, the ad's not even true. Ross, who used to run the state chapter of the ACLU, didn't serve as Green's defense counsel. Rather, her organization filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking that Green, who was only 13 years old, and, according to the ACLU, "borderline retarded," be tried as a juvenile; he otherwise faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison. (The state Supreme Court sided against Green.) The NRSC's ad, of course, skips over all this, calling Green a "5-foot-11 teenager" whom Ross wanted to put back "on our streets."
At the same time, The Senate Leadership Fund's new ad's offers a weird new twist on this theme, criticizing Ross for a case she didn't take on. The spot blasts Ross as someone who "defends those who want to burn the American flag" but refused to help a veteran who was threatened with a lawsuit for wanting to fly the flag on his property.
Of course, Republicans want to make it seem as though Ross is some kind of flag-hater, but a letter sent by the North Carolina ACLU at the time offered a very simple explanation: The organization had just two staff attorneys and limited resources, and it concluded that it would be "difficult to prove" the veteran's rights has been violated. Not that voters are ever likely to hear this entirely reasonable account of what actually happened—this is, after all, politics.
● Polls: Gravis Marketing-free since Oct. 10, 2016!
● FL-Sen: Associated Industries of Florida (R): Marco Rubio (R-inc): 49, Patrick Murphy (D): 41 (44-41 Clinton)
● FL-Sen: Marist: Rubio (R-inc): 48, Murphy (D): 46 (45-42 Clinton) (Aug.: 47-44 Rubio)
● NC-Sen: High Point University: Richard Burr (R-inc): 47, Deborah Ross (D): 42 (43-42 Clinton) (Sept.: 45-43 Burr)
● NC-Gov: High Point University: Roy Cooper (D): 49, Pat McCrory (R-inc): 42 (43-42 Clinton) (Sept.: 50-41 Cooper)
● PA-Sen: Marist: Katie McGinty (D): 48, Pat Toomey (R-inc): 44 (49-37 Clinton) (Aug.: 48-44 McGinty)
● PA-Sen: YouGov: McGinty (D): 42, Toomey (R-inc): 42 (48-40 Clinton) (Sept.: 39-39 tie)
● WI-Sen: Loras College: Ron Johnson (R-inc): 45, Russ Feingold (D): 40 (43-35 Clinton) (March: 48-39 Feingold)
● WI-Sen: YouGov: Feingold (D): 45, Johnson (R-inc): 42 (42-39 Clinton)
Aww, c'mon, Loras! We were just four weeks away from being able to say that Ron Johnson never led in a single poll all cycle, but now the Loras speaks and somehow has RoJo ahead, even as Hillary Clinton is up by 8 points. The Daily Kos Elections polling average gives Russ Feingold an extremely comfortable 51-40 lead, though, and even Republican internal polling looks nothing like Loras' (otherwise the GOP wouldn't have triaged Johnson), so there's nothing to say here except "outlier."
Meanwhile, Marist gives Patrick Murphy the best result he's seen in a while, but Marco Rubio still maintains a 46-41 advantage in our average, even as Clinton holds an aggregate 46-42 edge in the Sunshine State. Rubio's unusual but persistent crossover appeal has been Murphy's problem all along, but if Trump takes his entire ship down with him, then maybe, just maybe, Rubio won't be able to remain afloat.
● CA-17: SurveyUSA is the first independent pollster to take a look at this all-Democratic general election in Silicon Valley, and they give Ro Khanna a 38-37 lead over Rep. Mike Honda. Over the summer, both campaigns released their own polls showing their side with a 6-point lead. Often in intra-party races, it's a bad sign when the incumbent is far below 50 percent. However, in a mid-October poll of the 2014 Honda-Khanna race, SurveyUSA gave Honda a 37-35 lead; Honda defeated Khanna 52-48.
Until recently, the rematch didn't look incredibly promising for Honda. The congressman has dealt with some bad headlines over the least year about an ethics investigation looking at whether he improperly commingled campaign work with government business. Many politicians who endorsed Honda last time or remained neutral have switched to Khanna, while other former Honda supporters, most prominently President Obama, have not taken sides in round two. However, retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, who backed Honda last time, threw her support behind the incumbent once again on Monday.
But a few weeks ago, it was Khanna's turn to attract some ugly news. Honda's team filed a lawsuit that alleged that Khanna campaign manager, Brian Parvizshahi, illegally accessed private information about Honda's donors—and within hours, Parvizshahi resigned. Khanna's team is arguing that Parvizshahi never gave them the donor information. It's unclear what effect, if any, this is having on public opinion. However, Khanna has been trying to frame this as a race between an unethical incumbent and a clean challenger, and this story certainly complicates things.
But on Monday, Khanna unveiled a very rare endorsement from ex-President Jimmy Carter; aside from Hillary Clinton, Khanna is the only candidate whom Carter is supporting this year. At the very least, this gives Khanna a chance to change the subject with a month to go before Election Day.
● CA-25: It took a while, but both parties are ramping up their spending in this northern Los Angeles County seat. The DCCC has begun what the Los Angeles Times reports is a seven-figure ad buy, and their first spot (which we covered in a recent Digest) hits Republican Rep. Steve Knight's extreme stances on abortion. The NRCC is also launching what the Los Angeles Times says is a $625,000 buy, and they're up with their first ad.
The spot argues that Democrat Bryan Caforio defended big oil as an attorney, so his pledge to stand up to them is a lie. The commercial also calls Caforio a "Beverly Hills lawyer," who takes most of his campaign contributions from outside the district, so he's not really "one of us."
● CA-49: Polls show GOP Rep. Darrell Issa locked in the toughest race of his career, and he hasn't reacted particularly well to the pressure. So it's no surprise that Issa's decided to go sharply negative on his opponent, retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate, in a new TV ad that focuses on accusations made by Applegate's ex-wife, Priscilla Greco, following a bitter divorce many years ago.
A narrator recites a number of details from court documents that stemmed from that time, noting that a judge issued a restraining order against Applegate "after he was caught peeping in her apartment window long after their divorce" and made him "surrender his firearms to the police" because of "threatening messages" he'd sent to his former spouse. These sound like damning charges, but when these incidents first surfaced last month, Applegate offered a pretty good response in the form of a statement from Greco, who condemned "uninformed personal attacks" and said she was supporting her ex-husband in his congressional bid.
But few voters will see this press release; countless more will see Issa's ad. Applegate can't just let this attack go unanswered. He'll need to respond forcefully, whether by featuring Greco in an ad of his own or by hitting Issa back even harder—or both.
● NY-01, NY-03: Siena is out with polls of two Long Island congressional races, and they find them moving in very different directions. In New York's 1st, which is located on the eastern end of Long Island, they give Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin a 53-38 lead over Democrat Anna Throne-Holst; the sample has Donald Trump taking the seat 43-40. But in the 3rd, Democrat Tom Suozzi leads Republican Jack Martins 50-34, while Hillary Clinton carries the district 47-38.
Both polls were conducted before the 2005 Trump tape was released, so things could have shifted in Team Blue's favor in the 1st. Still, both sides have been acting like Zeldin has a clear edge. Our House ad tracker shows that the NRCC has canceled their entire $1.8 million reservation here, while the DCCC has yet to book anything. This is the only poll we've seen, but if Zeldin was really running anything like 12 points ahead of the GOP ticket, even a Trump collapse may not be enough to consume him. We'll see if Democrats smell blood and decide to pour money into this seat, which is located in the ultra-expensive New York City media market.
By contrast, all signs show that the GOP was in trouble in the 3rd District even before the Trump tape. In August and September, Democrats released polls showing Suozzi with similar leads as Siena shows now, and the GOP never coughed up better numbers. Last week, the NRCC also canceled almost their entire reservation here, a move that confirmed that Martins was in a bad position. By contrast, national Democrats also never reserved any money for this seat, and they probably won't now.
● NY-21: While Obama carried New York's 21st Congressional District, which is located in rural upstate New York, by a 52-46 margin, the North Country is ancestrally Republican downballot, and GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik looks positioned to win. The DCCC added Democrat Mike Derrick to their Red to Blue list back in July, but neither they nor their allies at House Majority PAC appear to have reserved any ad time here to help him.
However, Derrick has run a few commercials targeting Stefanik, and they may be getting under her skin. And we say this because last week, before the 2005 Donald Trump tape surfaced and ratcheted up the Trumpocalypse Warning Scale from Category I (General Risk of Republican Destruction) all the way to Category IV (Severe Risk of Republican Destruction), Stefanik began airing a negative spot against Derrick.
The narrator in Stefanik's ad asks the audience, "Isn't it funny when a politician you've never heard of starts attacking?" (Not really, actually.) The ad then goes on to call Derrick a Republican-turned-Democrat who owns seven homes in Colorado and doesn't know enough about legislation that could impact the area. The rest of the ad praises Stefanik for her work on local issues. It's unclear if Stefanik is just playing it safe, or if she really believes that Derrick is a threat. Of course, whatever she was thinking when she put together the ad last week may no longer matter.
Derrick himself has a new ad, which was also released in the middle of last week. His narrator ties Stefanik to Trump and features several clips of Stefanik declaring she'll back Trump. Yet over the summer, it was Derrick who was running commercials linking himself to Trump. In one memorable spot, he declared, "I don't support Trump, but he's right that we need to stop the job-killing TPP deal and take on both parties in Washington."
Obviously Derrick's approach has since shifted, and with the Trumptanic going down in flames, it's likely that his best hope of beating Stefanik will come if she sinks with it. Last week, we'd have said this probably wouldn't work: This seat has a considerably lower proportion of college graduates than the nation as a whole, and several polls have shown Trump doing much better in upstate New York that Romney did. But the game has changed, and if Trump really has become as toxic downballot as Democrats hope and Republicans fear he is, Derrick's strategy could be a whole lot more effective.
● NY-22: The presence of wealthy independent Martin Babinec has forced both parties to make some different strategic decisions than they usually need to make in general elections. While Babinec has mostly run commercials portraying himself as a non-partisan businessman, he's vowed to caucus with the GOP if he wins. Republican Claudia Tenney and her allies have decided that he's a bigger threat to them than he is to Democrat Kim Myers, and they've run ads against both candidates. Until now, Democrats have targeted Tenney and ignored Babinec in their spots. But House Majority PAC is now out with a commercial that, while nominally attacking both of Myers' opponents, is designed to encourage conservatives to desert Tenney for Babinec.
The narrator calls Tenney and Babinec "two Republican-aligned candidates for Congress." The spot attacks Tenney as someone who "didn't show up for work. And when she did, she voted in favor of a political deal that gave New York City billions of dollars in housing bond subsidies." They then shift to Babinec, and the narrator reminds viewers that the independent said he'd "side with Donald Trump Republicans in Congress." The spot goes on to say Babinec wants to eliminate Obamacare.
But the real kicker is when the narrator "attacks" Babinec for wanting "to cut taxes too much." No competent Democrat in a competitive race would ever actually hit their opponent for wanting too many tax breaks. Sure, Democrats will argue that Republicans want to slash taxes for the wealthy and for corporations, or say that Republicans are making devastating budget cuts, but they'd never actually use a line like this as a real attack. The spot is trying to appeal to conservative voters by framing the race as a choice between Tenney, who doesn't do her job and favors the dreaded New York City, and Babinec, a Trump supporter who wants to repeal Obamacare and loves those juicy tax cuts.
The GOP ads haven't tried anything like this. Team Red has consistently attacked Myers and Babinec for the exact same offense, or framed them both as utterly wrong for upstate New York. For instance, a recent NRCC ad framed them both as millionaires whose businesses hurt American jobs: There was nothing in that ad that would persuade Myers voters to flock to Babinec instead. HMP's tactics may or may not work in this race, but it's clear that while Republicans see Babinec's presence as a threat, Democrats see him as an opportunity.
● WI-08: Democrat Tom Nelson is out with a commercial in Wisconsin's 8th District tying Republican Tom Gallagher to Donald Trump. The narrator quotes Gallagher saying that he backs Trump, before the commercial rolls some footage of the infamous 2005 Trump tape. Viewers hear Trump proclaiming:
"I moved on her like a [expletive deleted]. I couldn't get there, and she was married. When you're a star, you can do anything. Grab them by the [expletive deleted]."
The narrator goes on to say Trump didn't pay income taxes for 18 years, before Trump is shown declaring, "That makes me smart." The spot shows Trump mocking a disabled reporter, before the narrator goes back to Gallagher and says he still insists we need to support Trump.
Romney carried this Green Bay district 51-48 and if Democrats want to reclaim the House, they'll need to flip seats like this. But like NY-01 (see our item above), this contest has looked bleak for Team Blue in recent weeks. Both parties reportedly have polls showing Gallagher doing well, and the DCCC recently canceled much of their reservation here. But if Trump really has collapsed and is dragging downballot Republicans into the abyss with him, then underdogs like Nelson should feel it. Nelson isn't running this ad from a position of strength, but Trump may have done enough damage to the GOP brand to give Team Blue a new opening in seats like this.
● Deaths: Less than a week after announcing he had been diagnosed with cancer, Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson died on Sunday at the age of 50. Thompson won a massive upset in the Democratic primary three years ago over longtime incumbent Joe Hynes, whose office had become tainted by corruption, particularly as a result of Hynes' willingness to turn a blind eye toward sex abuse in Brooklyn's Orthodox and Hasidic communities in exchange for political support from those groups.
In winning, Thompson became Brooklyn's first black district attorney, and earned plaudits both for pursuing a strong agenda of racial justice that included a vigorous effort to review wrongful convictions and for cracking down on gangs and illegal guns. It's not yet clear who will succeed Thompson, though Gov. Andrew Cuomo may pick a replacement, who would then have to run for election next year.
● FL-Sen: Democrat Patrick Murphy speaks directly to the camera in Spanish to attack Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on immigration reform and his support for Donald Trump.
● PA-Sen: The NRSC features actors in an elevator hitting "shady Katie McGinty" for supposedly being a corrupt Democratic political insider.
● MO-Gov: Republican Eric Greitens highlights his background as a Navy SEAL and philanthropist, promising to stand up to special interests and touting his conservative bona fides.
● CA-24: Democrat Salud Carbajal brings up about his military service to argue why we need universal gun background checks, something he says Republican Justin Fareed and Donald Trump oppose. Meanwhile, the NRCC hits Carbajal for voting to raise taxes and his own pay while a legislator.
● FL-07: Democrat Stephanie Murphy and the DCCC attack Republican Rep. John Mica for standing with Donald Trump when it comes to issues like women's healthcare.
● IN-02: With a hard-rock soundtrack propelling the ad along, Democrat Lynn Coleman hits Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski for voting for perks for members of Congress while supporting shutting down the government and Paul Ryan's plan to dismantle Medicare
● MN-03: Democrat Terri Bonoff uses the theme of "Minnesota nice" to politely skewer Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen for supporting Trump, opposing abortion rights, and trying to enact a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
● MN-08: House Majority PAC paints Republican Stewart Mills as a spoiled rich kid who opposes raising the minimum wage and wants to cut Social Security and Medicare.
● NY-24: Democrat Colleen Deacon attacks Republican Rep. John Katko for supporting Donald Trump, using clips of offensive Trump statements and Katko affirming his support for him. Meanwhile John Katko himself lambasts Deacon as too partisan and weak on ISIS.
● WA-07: Democrat Brady Walkinshaw attacks Trump as being everything wrong with politics, but says we have to be willing to work across the aisle, touting some of his achievements in the state legislature. That's not usually a message you see in a race against another Democrat in a dark blue seat like this Seattle district.
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.
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