● WI-Sen: While the Wisconsin Senate race hadn't attracted much outside spending all cycle long, that's changing in the final days of the race. On Friday, the Democratic group Senate Majority PAC announced that they were spending $2 million to help Russ Feingold, who has consistently led Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in the polls, albeit by varying—and lately, narrower—margins. In response, the pro-GOP Senate Leadership Fund said on Monday that they were also committing $2 million to this contest.
Those totals are small compared to what each group has spent in other Senate races, but with just a week left and several tight races in other states, they're far from nothing. Only one poll has ever shown Johnson ahead, but a few surveys, including two recent GOP polls, have found Feingold with just 2- or 3-point leads. The new spending seems like an indication that, even if Feingold is still ahead, he's not nearly as strong as he once looked.
Other groups are also descending on Wisconsin, though not all are directly playing in the Senate race. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign hadn't aired any ads in the state in the general election, but they announced a "six-figure" buy on Friday. Clinton's state director said that she was hoping to help Feingold and other Democrats downballot. Given how relatively small this buy is for a presidential campaign, it's likely that Clinton's team is not seriously worried about losing the state's 10 electoral votes and are in fact just trying to boost their margin of victory and sweep a few extra Democrats to victory. However, Clinton's allied super PAC, Priorities USA, may be expending more resources here. Priorities is also spending in Wisconsin for the first time in the general election, though exactly how much is unclear; all we know is that they're deploying a total of $6 million in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin combined.
On the GOP side, Johnson has a well-funded super PAC called the Reform America Fund set up to aid him, and it, too, just got a boost, in the form of a $4 million donation from wealthy GOP donor Diane Hendricks. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is chipping in, too, with a spot attacking Feingold for voting for Obamacare; the Chamber's FEC filing shows they've spent $600,000.
Other conservative groups are joining the fray, too. The NRA is also up with an ad, though they only appear to be putting $116,000 behind it so far. And another pro-Johnson super PAC, Let America Work Again, also seems to be putting just $112,000 behind their new commercial, which literally features a steaming pile of cow manure. By contrast, the Humane Society Legislative Fund's new ad campaign in support of Feingold is for $400,000, and it does not feature a steaming pile of cow manure.
Even taken together, these sums don't suggest an all-out GOP assault on Feingold, or a desperate last-minute effort by Democrats to save his chances. Most likely, Republicans, who are otherwise facing a very tough map, think they have a puncher's chance here, while Democrats are simply putting up their dukes so that the GOP can't land a sneaky knockout blow.
● FL-Sen: After major Democratic power players and grassroots progressives alike pushed New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to part with some of his massive $20 million war chest to help Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy beat GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, Schumer's finally acting … by sending a grand total of $50,000 Murphy's way. In total, Schumer is distributing approximately $1.7 million to various Senate candidates, with around a quarter million each going to Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. But Florida, where the need is greatest, is getting very little.
It's very strange that Schumer, as the party's incoming leader in the Senate, doesn't seem to be more interested in securing a Democratic majority. What he does now could spell the difference between him assuming the role of majority leader versus that of minority leader. Wouldn't he want to spend every penny to make sure it's the former and not the latter?
● LA-Sen: In what appears to be a first for us, a campaign TV spot is citing us as a source. We recently took issue with a commercial run by attorney Caroline Fayard against Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a fellow Democrat, in the Louisiana Senate race. Fayard's ad compared Campbell to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, mendaciously employing an audio clip of Campbell declaring at a recent debate, "I might be like Mr. Duke." Campbell was off-handedly saying that, like Duke, he could name more than two tax exemptions he wanted to eliminate, but Fayard's spot made it sound like Campbell was admitting he was also a racist.
In Campbell's new spot, he characterizes Fayard as "privileged, entitled, inexperienced, using her personal wealth to try and buy a Senate seat." As Campbell speaks, several newspapers flash by with unflattering headlines about Fayard, including one "newspaper" called "The Daily Kos" that features a photo of Duke. The headline reads, "One of the most scummy ads of the year, courtesy of Democrat Caroline Fayard." While we never used that as a headline (and last we checked, we don't have a print edition), we did indeed publish those words.
We'll also note that, while Campbell castigates Fayard for "using her personal wealth to try and buy a Senate seat," he hasn't hesitated to self-fund his Senate bid, too. As of the end of September, Campbell loaned his campaign $750,000, a bit more than the $650,000 Fayard put into her own effort. Good luck trying to get an appealing headline out of that sentence. Now if you'll excuse us, we need to go on our paper route. We have a lot of copies of The Daily Kos to deliver around the French Quarter before the sun rises.
● NC-Sen: Let's not beat around the bush. Republican Sen. Richard Burr privately "joked" about shooting Hillary Clinton, and CNN posted the audio on Monday:
The North Carolina Republican, locked in a tight race for reelection, quipped that as he walked into a gun shop "nothing made me feel better" than seeing a magazine about rifles "with a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front of it."
"I was a little bit shocked at that -- it didn't have a bullseye on it," he said Saturday to GOP volunteers, prompting laughter from the crowd in Mooresville, North Carolina. "But on the bottom right (of the magazine), it had everybody for federal office in this particular state that they should vote for. So let me assure you, there's an army of support out there right now for our candidates."
Burr also declared that "if Hillary Clinton becomes president, I am going to do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court."
On Monday, Burr issued a statement saying, "The comment I made was inappropriate, and I apologize for it," a very weak-ass apology indeed. Polls show that Burr is locked in a tight race with Democrat Deborah Ross: The Daily Kos Elections polling average gives Burr a 45-43 edge. However, Hillary Clinton posts a 46-43 lead, so Burr can't afford to lose too many Clinton voters.
Early voting is well underway, and there isn't much time left for this story to change minds. But if this race is really as tight as the polls say it is, something like this could make all the difference.
● Polls: Nine out of ten doctors agree: Keep Gravis and the Emerson College Polling Society out of your polling pile.
● AZ-Sen: YouGov: John McCain (R-inc): 43, Ann Kirkpatrick (D): 38 (44-42 Trump)
● CO-Sen: YouGov: Michael Bennet (D-inc): 46, Darryl Glenn (R): 41 (42-39 Clinton)
● FL-Sen: Siena: Marco Rubio (R-inc): 51, Patrick Murphy (D): 42 (46-42 Trump) (Sept.: 48-42 Rubio)
● FL-Sen: Marist: Rubio (R-inc): 51, Murphy (D): 43 (Clinton 45-44) (Oct.: 48-46 Rubio)
● IN-Sen: Monmouth: Evan Bayh (D): 45, Todd Young (R): 45 (50-39 Trump) (Oct.: 48-42 Bayh)
● IN-Gov: Monmouth: John Gregg (D): 48, Eric Holcomb (R): 42 (50-39 Trump) (Oct.: 50-38 Gregg)
● KY-Sen: RunSwitch Public Relations (R): Rand Paul (R-inc): 52, Jim Gray (D): 42 (56-32 Trump)
● MO-Sen: BK Strategies (R) for the Missouri Scout: Roy Blunt (R-inc): 47, Jason Kander (D): 44 (53-39 Trump)
● MO-Gov: BK Strategies (R) for the Missouri Scout: Chris Koster (D): 46, Eric Greitens (R): 45 (53-39 Trump)
● NC-Sen: Marist: Richard Burr (R-inc): 48, Deborah Ross (D): 48 (47-41 Clinton) (Oct.: 46-46 Senate tie)
● NC-Sen: YouGov: Burr (R-inc): 44, Ross (D): 44 (48-45 Clinton) (Aug.: 41-40 Ross)
● NC-Gov: Marist: Roy Cooper (D): 51, Pat McCrory (R-inc): 45 (47-41 Clinton) (Oct.: 49-48 Cooper)
● NC-Gov: YouGov: Cooper (D): 46, McCrory (R-inc): 44 (48-45 Clinton)
● PA-Sen: YouGov: Katie McGinty (D): 44, Pat Toomey (R-inc): 41 (48-40 Clinton) (Oct.: 42-42 Senate tie)
● PA-Sen: Muhlenberg: Toomey (R-inc): 41, McGinty (D): 41 (45-39 Clinton) (Sept.: 41-40 Toomey)
This latest batch of polls does little to upset the apple cart in most races, but Monmouth's latest survey in the infrequently polled Indiana Senate race is the first nonpartisan poll that doesn't show Democrat Evan Bayh with a lead. He fights Republican Todd Young to just a 45-45 tie, suggesting there simply aren't enough split-ticket voters for Bayh to overcome Trump's 50-39 lead if Monmouth's presidential result is accurate. Fortunately, they capture Democrat John Gregg leading Republican Eric Holcomb 48-42, in line with nearly all other gubernatorial surveys.
Multiple matchups in the Senate race in Pennsylvania and both the Senate and gubernatorial elections in North Carolina broadly reflect the polling consensus. They show razor-tight contests for Senate in each state, but Republican Gov. Pat McCrory poised to lose re-election to Democrat Roy Cooper in North Carolina. A pair of Florida Senate polls courtesy of Marist and Siena place Republican Sen. Marco Rubio ahead by nearly double digits, which is larger than his 46-43 edge in the polling average, but pollsters seem to almost all agree the senator is winning.
YouGov surveyed the Arizona and Colorado Senate races for the first time in the general election, while Republican pollster RunSwitch Public Relations offered us a rare look at the Senate race in Kentucky. All three surveys give the incumbent senators relatively modest leads in light of how neither national party is spending money like they expect any of these three states to be all that competitive. So far, most other polls suggest Republican Sen. John McCain in Arizona, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado, and Republican Sen. Rand Paul in Kentucky are all in good shape to win another term.
● VT-Gov: In a new ad, the DGA makes sure to let voters know that beloved native son Sen. Bernie Sanders supports Democrat Sue Minter for governor. They feature footage of Sanders endorsing Minter at a recent rally, where she promises to fight for economic opportunity and the middle class, both frequent Sanders themes.
● WV-Gov: While Democrat Jim Justice is the wealthiest man in West Virginia, GOP gubernatorial rival Bill Cole actually held much more money in his campaign war chest at the end of September. However, it seems that Cole is running on fumes heading into the final week. The Charleston Daily-Mail's Phil Kabler reports that Cole has only purchased $32,000 in statewide airtime. Justice's final buys aren't available, though Kabler says that the Democrat purchased $44,000 alone on one station last week.
According to the candidates' pre-general election filings, Justice leads Cole $630,000 to $165,000 in cash-on-hand. A recent Cole poll showed the two tied, though Democratic and independent surveys have given Justice solid leads. Cole doesn't have anything like Justice's personal wealth, but he can do some self-funding: Cole recently loaned his campaign $100,000. But he's probably going to need the Republican Governors Association's help to avoid getting badly outspent, and they are pitching in. The Center for Public Integrity's ad tracker reports that, as of Thursday, the RGA has spent $556,000 on broadcast TV throughout the entire campaign, an increase of $86,000 from the previous week.
The RGA's new spot mostly goes positive. The narrator starts by saying that both Hillary Clinton and Jim Justice "think they're above the law, putting themselves first," though he doesn't go into any details. He then promotes Cole as someone who "will stand up to Hillary's war on coal," protect gun rights, and stop undocumented immigrants. The spot ends by arguing that Cole "will work with Donald Trump to make West Virginia great again." It's a very bland spot.
By contrast, Justice's new commercial aimed at Cole is anything but bland. The narrator insists that Cole has some "questionable business practices" at his car dealerships. She says that he's overcharged costumers and lied about car histories, and "worse yet, Cole's company has been sued multiple times for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment for women. Even Bill Cole's female personal assistant filed a complaint for sexual harassment."
The ad cites a recent story in The Register-Herald, which notes that Cole himself has never been personally named in any of the lawsuits. Earlier this year, a former Cole employee filed a lawsuit against a male supervisor. Two earlier sexual harassment lawsuits against Cole's company were dismissed, and another complaint alleging age and sex discrimination was closed years ago.
● FL-13: Long before he became a Democrat, Charlie Crist was known in Florida politics by the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie," dating back to his days as a Republican legislator. Now his Republican opponent in his bid for Congress, Rep. David Jolly, wants to remind voters how Crist earned that sobriquet. Jolly's newest TV ad features former state Rep. Rudy Bradley, an African American Democrat-turned-Republican, excoriating Crist in very personal terms:
Charlie Crist has no regrets about going to Alabama and bragging about bringing back the chain gangs. To me, it's personal, because he forced my brother-in-law, Harry K. Singletary, to watch. Harry felt sick, because Crist found joy in black men being humiliated. Charlie, the next time you pose with chains, try putting them on and see how it feels.
The backstory: Back in 1995, Crist sponsored legislation to reinstate chain gangs, which hadn't been used in the state of Florida since the 1940s. The bill passed, and Crist went on a trip to neighboring Alabama, which had recently revived the practice, along with Singletary, Florida's first African-American secretary of corrections.
In a photo taken at the time, Crist was shown with Singletary watching four prisoners get shackled together before starting to work. And according to news accounts, Crist declared, "I'm very impressed by what I've seen so far," adding, "I see justice. I see justice being done." In fact, he particularly favored Alabama's extra-brutal approach of chaining prisoners together in groups of five. (Florida wound up "only" shackling inmates individually.)
Singletary died in 2010, which is why Jolly has Bradley speak for him. But Singletary made his opposition to chain gangs well-known at the time, though as an appointed state official, he had no choice but to go along with them. And when Jolly brought up the issue in a debate in September, noting that the prisoners Crist observed were black, Crist was unapologetic, saying that Florida was "number one in violent crime" at the time.
Crist went on to say that he was "embarrassed" for Jolly that he would insinuate his views "had anything to do with race"—almost as though Jolly had made a courtly gaffe by daring to bring race into the equation. But it inescapably is. Crist's dodge is entirely unacceptable to progressives today: He advocated for a cruel form of punishment that not only would disproportionately affect African-Americans but directly invoked painful memories of slavery. Jolly might be an imperfect messenger to upbraid Crist, and he probably doesn't even have much money left to air this ad, but Crist needs to apologize for his support for chain gangs, pure and simple.
● IN-09: The Democratic group House Majority PAC recently began a $815,000 buy in this 57-41 Romney seat, and the NRCC committed $1.1 million to defending it last week. The DCCC has now filed a $137,000 media buy with the FEC. This is their first major expenditure in this contest, though they could have reserved more money here.
● KS-03: Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder's latest ad has earned him a coveted place in the Chutzpah Hall of Fame. Yoder attacks Democrat Jay Sidie for failing to vote in several elections, most notably the 2014 gubernatorial election. Yoder blasts him for refusing to vote that year against Gov. Sam Brownback, who is possibly the least popular governor in America. What makes this attack so galling is that not only is Brownback a Republican too, Yoder himself supported the governor in 2014. Voters in this well-educated and affluent suburban Kansas City district utterly despise Brownback—partly thanks to his steep education budget cuts—and Democrats have already gone to great lengths to tie Yoder to him. This absurd line of attack should only give them another reason to do so.
● ME-02: The University of New Hampshire has a House poll with a sample size larger than 300 people (a whopping 341!), which is arguably more interesting than what their survey actually says. UNH gives Democrat Emily Cain a 43-42 edge against Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, while Hillary Clinton leads 43-40.
● NE-02: Republican Don Bacon is out with a Singularis Group poll giving him a narrow 47-45 lead over Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford; presidential numbers were not included in the release. A few days ago, Bacon's allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund dropped a poll showing him up 48-44, while Donald Trump led 44-40 in this Omaha seat. Ashford released a survey in September showing him leading 50-40, but Team Blue hasn't produced new numbers since then. Both parties are spending heavily here, so no one is acting like either Ashford or Bacon has a clear edge.
● NV-04: A little less than two weeks ago, the DCCC released a poll giving Democrat Ruben Kihuen only a 40-38 lead over Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy in a North Las Vegas seat that Obama carried 54-44. Hardy is one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the House, and it was pretty surprising to see him do that well in a Democratic poll. However, while no one has released any new numbers since then, early voting indicates that Hardy is still very much the underdog.
According to Jon Ralston, registered Democrats in the 4th District have cast 16,000 more votes in early votes in Clark County, which makes up about 90 percent of the seat. Statewide, early voting trends look similar to 2012. Four years ago, about 70 percent of Nevada's vote was cast before Election Day, so if Hardy and his allies can't procrastinate if they want to turn things around.
This doesn't mean Hardy is doomed. Both parties are spending heavily here, so no one is acting like this race is over. But this is a very blue seat, and if Hillary Clinton performs about as well as Obama did four years ago, Hardy is going to need a ton of ticket splitting to put him over the top.
● Richmond, VA Mayor: Ex-state Del. Joe Morrissey, an independent who has led in the few polls we've seen for mayor of Richmond, Virginia, was already one of the most despicable candidates anywhere in America. Morrissey infamously served a brief prison sentence for having sex with an underage girl who later became his wife. Morrissey eventually said that the text messages that incriminated him were planted by a hacker, but investigators for the state bar recently submitted a court filing saying that he lied. We wrote only a few weeks ago, "You can't get much lower than that," but it turns out, Joe Morrissey did.
Last week, a local judge allowed Kanika Shani Morris, a former client at Morrissey's law firm, to withdraw her guilty plea. Morris says that in February, Morrissey exposed himself to her, and went on to make sexual advances through text messages. She also says that after she refused him, another lawyer at the firm took her case saying she hadn't paid enough to get Morrissey to represent her, and the new attorney urged her to plea guilty for failing to return a rental car. Morris provided The Richmond Times-Dispatch with copies of Morrissey's explicit texts.
Morrissey denied almost everything on Friday, though he admitted to sending "flirtatious" texts to her. On Saturday, an attorney at Morrissey's office also denied that the candidate ever made sexual advances on Morris. Morrissey also made it clear that he would continue his campaign.
As we've noted before, Richmond's electoral laws aid a candidate like Morrissey who has a small, but solid, base of support. Richmond requires mayoral candidate to win just a plurality of the vote in November in five of the nine city council districts to win without a runoff, which could very well happen next week in this crowded contest. If there is a runoff, the winner still isn't the candidate with the most votes, it's the candidate who wins a majority of the council districts. Morrissey's two main rivals next week look like Venture Richmond Executive Director Jack Berry and former Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney, who has the support of Gov. Terry McAuliffe; both candidates are Democrats.
● Gerrymandering: What is gerrymandering and how does it work? Stephen Wolf answers those questions in this gerrymandering explainer, using three example North Carolina congressional maps to demonstrate just how powerful of an impact control over redistricting can have on election outcomes. The current Republican-drawn congressional map produced an ironclad 10-to-3 Republican advantage in 2014, but Wolf illustrates how Team Blue could have almost turned that on its head and created a rigid 9-to-4 Democratic edge if they had drawn the map instead. Finally, he details how a nonpartisan map might have given each party five secure seats while the remaining three could have been swing districts, producing outcomes that much more fairly reflected the state's evenly divided partisanship.
The Washington Post even wrote a feature on Wolf's three maps, which themselves had drawn inspiration from a previous viral Post graphic that explained gerrymandering using abstract red and blue squares.
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.