● FL-Sen: Republican Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera's fundraising has been sucky, but he's getting help from a notable source: Retiring Sen. Marco Rubio, who's headlining a fundraiser for CLC (as he's known) at NRSC headquarters in DC next month. Lopez-Cantera better hope that Rubio's more popular with donors than he is with voters.
● LA-Sen: We finally have first quarter fundraising reports from all the candidates—nearly a month after the quarter ended—and as expected, GOP Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming lead the field. Boustany, who is close to the House leadership, outraised Fleming $700,000 to $323,000 in the first three months of the year. However, Fleming is wealthy and has been doing some self-funding, and he has a small $2.3 million to $1.9 million cash-on-hand lead.
Both congressmen were able to transfer all the money from their House warchests into their Senate campaigns, but state Treasurer John Kennedy, the third major Republican in the race, had to start his fundraising from scratch this year. Kennedy did bring in $818,000, more than either Boustany or Fleming, but he only had a little less than $700,000 in the bank. Kennedy's allies have set up a super PAC to help him, but Make Louisiana Proud so far is bringing in a whole lot less cash than it needs. According to the Associated Press, the group had previously said that it expected to have $2.3 million saved up by the end of the first quarter; it actually had only $337,000 at the end of last month.
One big problem for Kennedy is that he has almost $3 million sitting in his state campaign account, but it's not clear if he can actually do anything with it. Kennedy expected to just transfer the money to his super PAC (by law, he couldn't just send it directly to his federal campaign), but his opponents are arguing that this wouldn't be legal either. In a late March memo on behalf of an unidentified client, Republican attorney Ben Ginsberg argued that transferring non-federal campaign money into a super PAC for a federal race "would violate the prohibition on a federal candidate or his agent 'directly or indirectly establishing, financing, maintaining or controlling' a soft money, non-federal entity that aids his campaign."
An unnamed attorney for Kennedy disputed this interpretation, saying, "Making a donation, which is what we're talking about, doesn't trigger establishing, maintaining or controlling an entity." However, the matter won't be resolved until Kennedy actually sends the money to Make Louisiana Proud and someone files a compliant and forces the FEC to rule.
A few other Republicans are running, but none of that have much cash. Rob Maness, a tea partier who ran in 2014, had only $213,000 on hand, while ex-Rep. Joseph Cao raised nothing. Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta formed an exploratory committee at the end of December, but there's no word on how much money he's raised (which may be a sign that he, too, has raised very little). Skrmetta reportedly told donors last year that he'd decide if he'd run by early March, but he's said nothing publicly about his Senate plans in a very long time.
All the candidates will run on one ballot in November, and unless someone takes an outright majority (which is extremely unlikely in a field this crowded), the top two vote-getters will advance to a December runoff. It's far from clear if there will be two Republicans duking it out this winter, or if a Democrat will take one of the runoff spots. While Gov. John Bel Edwards' huge win last year gave Team Bleu some extra spring in its step, it's very tough to see Democrats winning a federal race in this very conservative state anytime soon, especially since none of the three declared candidates reported having much money.
Attorney Caroline Fayard had only $251,000 in the bank while Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, who has Edwards' backing, loaned himself $250,000 but did no fundraising; Campbell claims he's "quickly making up for lost time," whatever that may mean. Energy executive Josh Pellerin only kicked off his campaign after the quarter ended, so we'll need to wait and see what the novice candidate brings in.
● NC-Gov: Just a few days after the DGA went up with its first ad of North Carolina's gubernatorial race, hammering GOP Gov. Pat McCrory over the business backlash against HB2, the RGA is following suit. In their first TV ad, a 15-second spot reportedly backed by a $510,000 buy, a too-fast-talking narrator brands state Attorney General Roy Cooper as a "30-year career politician" who has raised lots o' taxes. What's weird about this attack is that the 60-year-old McCrory has spent almost his whole life in politics, too, first winning a seat on the Charlotte City Council at age 33 and generally holding some kind of elective office ever since. Republicans may have better hits coming, but this is a weak initial salvo.
● WV-Gov: The May 10 Democratic primary is coming soon, and billionaire Jim Justice is going negative on both his intra-party foes. (Justice's campaign has not posted his new ad online yet, but MetroNews' Hoppy Kercheval kindly sent us a copy.) The narrator characterizes ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler of being "two peas in a pod," complete with an animation of them being engulfed in a pea pod in case the metaphor wasn't obvious enough. She goes on to call them both "career politicians who have never built anything or created a single job. Both insiders who think that more government is the answer," and concludes by accusing the duo of wanting to raise taxes. (Yes, this ad sounds like it should be from a GOP primary.) Justice is never mentioned.
We haven't seen any polling here in a long time, so it's far from clear why Justice is suddenly going negative. Justice, who has posted clear leads in the stale surveys we've seen, has been running far more ads that Goodwin and especially Kessler, and the only spot that attacked him was very weak. Maybe Justice thinks that the race is getting away from him, or maybe he's just decided to nuke his opponents early before they can effectively respond. Hopefully we'll have some fresh numbers soon and get a better idea what's going on.
● IA-03: Investor Mike Sherzan is out with his second TV spot ahead of the June Democratic primary. The commercial is narrated by several of Sherzan's female employees, who praise him for ensuring that they received the same pay, titles, and opportunities for promotion as their male counterparts. Sherzan is competing with veteran Jim Mowrer for the right to take on freshman Republican David Young in this swing seat.
● IN-03: With days to go before the primary for this safely red Fort Wayne-area seat, the Club for Growth is up with two new 15-second spots attacking both of state Sen. Jim Banks' main foes. The Club has already ripped into farmer Kip Tom, and their new ad once again calls him "a liberal insider." They also hit state Sen. Liz Brown, accusing her of "voting to raise property taxes." The only independent poll of the race shows Banks, who the Club is backing, leading Tom 29-23, with Brown at 22.
● IN-09: If Alex Mooney and David Trone had a baby, it would look a lot like Trey Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth, one of the four Republicans competing in next week's primary for this solidly red southern Indiana seat, takes Mooney's unabashed carpetbagging and combines it with Trone's insane self-funding, and it just may work.
Hollingsworth, who moved from Tennessee to the 9th just before launching his campaign last year, spent $307,000 just from April 1 to the 13th, and he's since loaned himself another $500,000. Hollingsworth has thrown at least $1.8 million behind his campaign; while that pales in comparison to the almost $13 million Trone lent himself in his unsuccessful quest for Maryland's 8th District, it's still far more than what any of his opponents have been able to scrape together. Hollingsworth's wealthy father has also financed a super PAC that has run ads boosting the candidate and bashed rival Greg Zoeller, the state attorney general.
There are undoubtedly numerous voters who would be disgusted to be represented by some rich guy who just parachuted into their community. But since Hollingsworth and his dad have been dominating the airwaves, plenty of primary voters may not have any idea Hollingsworth is anything but the nice conservative Hoosier he's presenting himself as. State Sen. Erin Houchin recently went up with an ad hitting Hollingsworth as "a Tennessee millionaire who just moved here to try and buy our seat in Congress." However, Houchin had only $145,000 in the bank on April 13, so she may not have enough money to blast that message far and wide in the closing days of the race. State Sen. Brent Waltz and Zoeller had only $80,000 and $62,000 on-hand, so they won't exactly be able to attack Hollingsworth much on TV either. And in this crowded field, Hollingsworth can take the nomination with just a plurality.
Of course, there is more to victory than just ads. Local Republicans say that Hollingsworth doesn't have much of a ground-game, and he has few, if any, local allies helping him. The other three candidates also have their own bases of support from their previous campaigns. However, this primary will be on the same day as Indiana's very high-profile presidential contest: If voters who only care about the Ted Cruz-Donald Trump fight just back the House candidate whose ads they've seen so much of, that will benefit Hollingsworth. We'll have our answers soon in any case.
● NE-02: Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Don Bacon has been selling himself as a political outsider, but he just picked up an endorsement from Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Thursday, which kinda sends the opposite message, don't you think? He's also received the backing of Sen. Deb Fischer and former Gov. Kay Orr, two other GOP establishment figures. However, Bacon, who is hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, faces a primary with former state Sen. Chip Maxwell, whom Democrats are gleefully trying to help win the nomination, since they view him as a weaker general election candidate. So evidently, Bacon is trying to get all the help he can get. On the flipside, though, Newt Gingrich just endorsed him, too, so maybe Bacon actually wants to lose.
● NH-01: The mere formation of a super PAC designed to boost a single candidate is almost never worth remarking on, since anyone can file some paperwork with the FEC—what matters is whether that PAC can actually raise real money. But there are always exceptions, and here's one: A bunch of top Republican operatives have banded together to create a super PAC for businessman Rich Ashooh, who is running for Congress in the New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District.
The development is notable because Ashooh is hoping to unseat Rep. Frank Guinta, whom the state's GOP establishment has been trying to get rid of, since the FEC's ruling that he'd illegally accepted a $355,000 campaign donation from his parents in 2010 has made him toxic. Guinta's stubbornly refused to step aside, but this new super PAC suggests that Republicans are at least somewhat serious about trying to get rid of him, something you don't often see when an incumbent is involved.
It's also worth pointing out that this same community didn't rally around former business school dean Dan Innis, who cut a similar profile to Ashooh but ultimately dropped out of the race shortly before Ashooh got in. (Indeed, Ashooh had kind words for Innis at the time.) It's possible Ashooh, who ran against Guinta once before in 2010, just has more friends among political power players, but it's also possible those same people view Ashooh as a better bet to stop Guinta.
No matter what help he gets from up on high, though, Ashooh's task is complicated by the fact that state Rep. Pam Tucker is also running and could very well pull some anti-incumbent votes away from Ashooh. Democrats hope that's what happens in this swingy district, since they'd much prefer to face the damaged Guinta in November rather than any of the alternatives.
● NV-03: Well, this is bizarre. There's been little question that Republican bigwigs in both Nevada and DC would prefer to have state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson as their nominee in this swing seat instead of wealthy perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian. Tarkanian is an outspoken conservative and he has some serious personal flaws. Most notably, there was a $17 million judgment against his family over a loan for a failed "equestrian destination resort" that he and his family personally guaranteed. However, the NRCC recently elevated both Roberson and Tarkanian to the second level of their "Young Guns" program.
The NRCC has played favorites in some primaries (notably in the crowded contest for Florida's swingy 18th District, where they just elevated Rebecca Negron and only Rebecca Negron), so it's not like they were duty-bound to give Tarkanian a participation trophy. It's not clear what's going on, but Team Blue certainly won't complain if Tarkanian beats Roberson in June. Still, one big GOP establishment group is very much taking sides here. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Roberson; the Chamber frequently spends huge sums on their favored candidates, so this is a very good get for him.
Roberson himself is also going up with his first ad, backed by a $50,000 buy. The spot touts Roberson as a conservative reformer, with the narrator arguing he "fought for the largest spending cuts in state history," and "led the fight for the most conservative education reforms in the country." There's a brief shot of Roberson with Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has endorsed him, though the narrator does not mention Sandoval.
● NY-13: Assemblyman Keith Wright added another big establishment name to his roster of backers this week with an endorsement from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a major power-player in Democratic politics both in New York and nationally. Previously, Wright, who is running in the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel, had earned the support of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. And according to Politico, Rangel himself is set to endorse Wright over the weekend, though Rangel can be a slippery figure, so we'll wait to see that one confirmed before we accept it as gospel. Wright faces a crowded field in the June 28 primary for this safely blue seat, though he's led the field in fundraising to date.
● House: The Democratic group House Majority PAC has reserved millions of dollars in TV time for the fall in several media markets, and the NRCC is starting to follow suit. Nathan Gonzales reports that the GOP has reserved time in the four markets for Sept. 30 to Election Day, though the NRCC hasn't announced how much money it's put down anywhere yet.
For the most part, it's very easy to tell which markets correspond with which seats and so far, the NRCC is focused entirely on defense. In Denver, Rep. Mike Coffman is defending Colorado's 6th District from Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll. In Des Moines, freshman Rep. David Young is trying to hold Iowa's 3rd District; three Democrats are competing in the June primary to face him. (Rod Blum, another Iowa GOP freshman, is defending a seat that's mostly located in the Cedar Rapids market, so he's probably not part of this initial ad buy.) In Miami, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is trying to hold Florida's 26th District, which was recently made more Democratic due to court-ordered redistricting; the Democrats won't select their nominee until late August.
The NRCC has also reserved time in Las Vegas, which could be for either Nevada's open 3rd District or to help freshman Cresent Hardy in the 4th (or for both). Hardy is one of the most endangered Republican in the House, while the 3rd is very swingy; the Nevada primary is in mid-June. This is obviously a very small list, and it's far too early to read much into the many seats that didn't get included in this initial buy. And as we've noted before, while early ad reservations help lock in cheaper rates, they can be adjusted or cancelled, so this list could change and will definitely expand.
● Demographics: There was so much wrong with Jim Vandehei's bizarre op-ed this week calling for a third party made up of incompatible parts and pieces that it was easy to overlook his throwaway comment about his equally-bizarre vision of what parts of America were "normal:" Oshkosh, Wisconsin and Lincoln, Maine. Jed Kolko, writing for FiveThirtyEight, seized on Vandehei's ramblings as a way of asking, well, what place is normal (in the sense of being most demographically-representative of the country as a whole, when measuring race and ethnicity, age, and educational attainment)?
At the state level, he confirms that Illinois is still the nation's most representative state. However, it's no longer about whether "it'll play in Peoria," but instead, Chicago's suburbs are probably what's most representative there. Up next is New York and New Jersey. At the metro area level, New Haven, Connecticut is on top, with some of New England's other smaller metros near the top of the list; it's followed by Tampa, Hartford, Oklahoma City, and Springfield, Massachusetts. Oshkosh and Lincoln (part of the Bangor metro area) are way down the list, seeing as how they're much whiter and more elderly than the country as a whole.
Instead, what pundits like Vandehei probably have in mind as an ideal is what was "normal" back in the Eisenhower era. Kolko demonstrates that by also compiling a list of what's currently most representative, based on the nation's race, age, and educational composition in the 1950s. For states, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana are most like 50s America, and for metros, it's Ogden, Utah; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. However, Kolko points out that metros aren't a good indicator in general, and today's "micropolitan areas" are closer to the 50s image.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and Stephen Wolf.