● AZ-Sen: PPP's new poll of Arizona offers some potentially exciting news for Democrats. Sen. John McCain sports a pitiful 34-52 job approval rating and holds only a soft 42-36 lead on his Democratic challenger, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who is still unknown to 42 percent of voters. And funny enough, the last time PPP polled here—which was a full year ago—the topline numbers were identical: 42-36.
But it's not only the general election results that show promise. McCain's standing with GOP primary voters is abysmal. Even with them, his approval rating is a beyond-abysmal 35-50, and he leads loony-bin escapee Kelli Ward by just 36-29, with a variety of minor challengers in the low single digits. Toss them out and McCain is flat-out tied with Ward in a head-to-head race at 41 apiece. Democrats should seriously be looking at ways to knock those bit players off the ballot somehow, because if Ward were to defeat McCain, she'd start the race trailing Kirkpatrick 37-35 and would be just a disaster for Republicans.
And that's not all. The presidential data is very tasty as well. Donald Trump edges Hillary Clinton by just a 40-38 margin, with Libertarian Gary Johnson (the former governor of neighboring New Mexico) at 6 percent. No presidential election in Arizona has been that close since Bill Clinton actually won the state by 2 points in 1996, the last time it went blue. Arizona's often looked like a tempting target for Democrats, but it's always remained stubbornly out of reach. If it's somehow in play this year, that would speak very well for Kirkpatrick's chances.
P.S. In PPP's trademark style, the firm asked respondents if they thought this poll would be good news … for John McCain! By a 38-25 margin, they said it would not be—and they were right!
● CO-Sen: After repeating on loop "I'm on the ballot" to any questions about his forged petition signatures—and kinda-sorta suggesting he might sic his 165-pound Great Dane on a reporter—someone finally knocked a touch of sense into former GOP state Rep. Jon Keyser and he's now actually trying to address the issue. Keyser acknowledged that the fraud charges constitute "an extremely serious allegation" and blamed the company he hired to gather signatures for the mess, which is exactly what he should have done in the first place.
That company, Black Diamond Outreach, says it's fired the petition collector in question, and also promised to "cooperate with any investigation." Previously, the Denver district attorney's office said it was looking into the matter, but now at least one other prosecutor are getting involved, in neighboring Arapahoe County. And it might be more: Marshall Zelinger, who has doggedly pursued this story, says that "multiple district attorneys" convened on Monday to discuss the case. Even if some national shaming managed to get Keyser to confront this debacle directly, it's still not looking like it'll have a happy ending for him.
● LA-Sen: John Bel Alert! Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards endorsed Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell's Senate campaign a while ago, and Edwards will host a fundraiser for him at the end of May. Campbell didn't raise any cash during the first few months of 2016 (though he did loan his campaign $250,000). Campbell faces two notable fellow Democrats, attorney Caroline Fayard and energy executive Josh Pellerin, along with several Republicans, in the November jungle primary.
● OH-Sen: What BuzzFeed politely refers to as the "political network affiliated with the billionaire Koch brothers," but is more simply known as just the Kochtopus, says it's reserving $30 million in TV time for Senate races in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, and "likely Florida," too. USA Today offers a slightly different accounting, narrowing the timeframe to "August and September," not hedging on Florida, and leaving off Wisconsin entirely, where GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has faced nothing but terrible polling and seems to be just flailing through the motions.
Whatever the precise reservations might amount to, this leak straight from Koch HQ seems to be a form of "We're not dead yet!" pushback in the wake of a major National Review piece on Monday that claimed the Koch bros had slashed their political advertising budget from $130 million to "just" $40 million in 2016. But maybe that's still accurate! BuzzFeed says the Kochs have spent $12.4 million so far this election cycle, so if you add that to $30 million, yep, you wind up right around $40 mil. Perhaps that number will increase, but perhaps not.
And in the meantime, one Kochtopus tentacle is extending outward toward the Ohio Senate race from Freedom Partners, which is running a new $2.2 million ad campaign hitting Democratic ex-Gov. Ted Strickland. Their spot features a self-described businessman named "Keith" who complains about job losses and tax hikes during Strickland's gubernatorial term. Ridiculously, Keith also gripes that "thousands" of jobs "went to other states," which, you know, well, there was a Great Recession going on, so no. Those jobs didn't go elsewhere—they just went away.
● PA-Sen, IL-Sen, WI-Sen: The DSCC has booked another $12 million in TV time for the fall, on top of the $37 million it initially reserved last month. This round, $8.2 million will go to Pennsylvania, while $2 million apiece will be devoted to Illinois and Wisconsin. The NRSC, by contrast, has only reserved $28 million in competitive Senate races so far.
● WV-Sen: Normally, it wouldn't be very notable that the conservative Judicial Crisis Network is putting $200,000 behind an ad against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin; few voters will remember any spots from this year that anyone runs for or against Manchin when he's next up for re-election in 2018. What is interesting though is that JCN uses the first half of the spot to build up Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. The narrator praises Morrisey as someone who is fighting the Obama administration to protect the coal industry, before blasting Manchin as someone who is "doing the opposite." Morrisey considered running for governor this cycle, and it seems that the well-funded JCN is signaling that they'll have his back if he challenges Manchin next cycle (or at least JCN's donors will).
● CA-Gov: The top-two primary for California's open gubernatorial race is two years away, and we already have our second major Democratic candidate. On Tuesday, state Treasurer John Chiang announced that he would run, and he began fundraising for his campaign. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom kicked off his bid over a year ago, and he has about $5.4 million on-hand. Statewide elections in the Golden State are extremely expensive, so it makes sense that Chiang would make his plans clear early so he can raise money in earnest. Still, Chiang has $3.3 million in his treasurer account that he can transfer over, so he won't be starting from scratch.
A few other Democrats have been eyeing the 2018 race to succeed termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and ex-Controller Steve Westly, who ran in 2006, have both made their interest known; the Sacramento Bee also lists Secretary of State Alex Padilla and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer as possible contenders. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is also up in 2018 and she hasn't announced if she'll run again; if Feinstein retires, a few possible gubernatorial candidates may decide to seek her Senate seat instead. California is a dark blue state but San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who is the overwhelming favorite to win re-election this year, may be one of the few Republicans who can makes things interesting, and he's refused to rule out a gubernatorial run.
● VT-Gov: State House Speaker Shap Smith suspended his campaign for the Democratic nod last year, citing his wife's ongoing battle with breast cancer, but he began making noises about getting back in a few months ago. Vermont's filing deadline is May 26 and Smith, who says his wife's treatment is going well, intends to announce his plans this week. However, Smith sounds likely to run for lieutenant governor instead, saying that the cost of running for governor makes the top job less appealing.
Three Democrats are currently competing in the Aug. 9 primary: ex-state Sen. Matt Dunne, who ran in 2010; former state Sen. Peter Galbraith, a former diplomat; and ex-state Secretary of Transportation Sue Minter. Last week, all three sought the endorsement of the left-wing state Progressive Party, which often allies with Democrats. However, the party's state committee voted not to support anyone, though the Progressives said they might reconsider after the primary. The Progressives backed outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin, but party leaders don't feel that he advocated for their issues enough, and they don't think that any of this trio of Democratic contenders stand out from the others.
The Progressives sometimes run their own candidates in the general election, but party chair Emma Mulvaney-Stanak says they're unlikely to do that in this year's gubernatorial race. The filing deadline for Progressive candidates is also May 26, but Seven Days' Paul Heintz tells us that if no one files, they can still fill the ballot spot for the general election up to six days after the primary. Republicans have a tough candidate in Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (though he needs to get past rich guy Bruce Lisman first), and the last thing Team Blue would want is to lose liberal voters to the Progressives.
● WV-Gov: The Republican Governors Association stuck to running positive ads for state Senate President Bill Cole while the Democrats were still choosing their nominee. But coal billionaire Jim Justice decisively won last week's Democratic primary, and the RGA is launching what the National Journal reports is a $500,000 buy against him. The RGA's spot accuses Justice of getting rich at his coal miners expense. The narrator accuses Justice's companies of being "sued for laying off employees without notice, and failing to pay workers' compensation premiums."
● CA-24: Democrats must be legitimately worried that two Republicans will advance from next month's top-two primary to the November general election, because the House Majority PAC and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are pouring in $300,000 for TV ads boosting Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal. That comes on top of a $136,000 buy for Carbajal a couple of weeks ago from the DCCC.
But whereas the D-Trip's ad went straight-up positive, the HMP spots mostly contain attacks on GOP Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian. The first ad, which is airing in Spanish, calls Achadjian and Donald Trump " two faces of the anti-immigration movement" and features nasty quotes from both men (Achadjian: We're going "ship them all out and make sure they can't come back"; Trump: "You're going to have a deportation force."). The second, meanwhile, is in English and slams Achadjian as anti-choice, citing his zero percent rating from Planned Parenthood.
What's probably happening here is that HMP is trying to warn moderate voters away from Achadjian, who likely entered the race with the most name recognition since his Assembly seat covers two thirds of the House district he's now running for. If this train of thought is correct, that means Democratic groups are hoping to ensure a November matchup between Carbajal and Achadjian, and desperately trying to make sure that 2014 GOP candidate Justin Fareed doesn't sneak into that second slot.
Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider is the other major Democrat in the race. We initially thought that only one Democrat and one Republican would advance in this 54-43 Obama seat, especially now that only Team Blue's presidential primary is now competitive. But national Democrats seem convinced that Carbajal and Schneider are in danger of splitting the Democratic vote enough to allow Achadjian and Fareed to advance to November and give Republicans an automatic pickup.
● FL-04: On Monday, attorney Hans Tanzler III received an endorsement from ex-Sen. Connie Mack III in this safely red seat. Mack has been out of office since 2001, but he may still have some pull with Republican voters. (At the very least, this probably locks up the critical III voter bloc.) Many local Republican power players are backing ex-Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford in the August primary; St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure and state Rep. Lake Ray are also in.
● FL-06: For the second time this cycle, a former Republican House member has left the race for this open seat. This time, it's Ric Keller, who announced on Tuesday that "remaining in the private sector is the most positive option for our family at this time in terms of financial security and time commitments."
Keller's month-long comeback campaign never made a ton of sense: Keller represented only 8 percent of this seat before his 2008 general election defeat, and he wasn't very popular with primary voters in his old district. Keller's departure leaves state Reps. Fred Costello and David Santiago, Navy veteran Brandon Patty, and conservative marketing firm head Pat Mooney (the brother of West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney) in the GOP primary for this Volusia County-based seat.
● NE-02: Republican Don Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general, is out with a new poll from The Singularis Group that gives him a narrow lead over Democratic freshman Rep. Brad Ashford. Singularis conducted their survey May 12 to 13, days after Bacon won the GOP nod, and they have him up 44-42, with Libertarian Steven Laird at 5. Only 8 percent are undecided, which is a pretty low number for a House race six months away from Election Day.
Internal polls of course should always be taken with a few grains of salt, and we've seen almost no polls from Singularis ever. (In fact, we've found exactly one mention of them in our DKE/ Swing State Project archives.) Romney won this Omaha seat 53-46 but Bacon has been a weak fundraiser, and this survey may be his way to reassure GOP donors that he's still a good investment.
● NY-19: The super PAC New York Wins, which is funded by hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, is out with a TV spot hitting businessman Andrew Heaney ahead of the June 28 GOP primary. The commercial accuses Heaney of being a carpetbagger from Manhattan who has generously donated to Democratic candidates. Heaney faces ex-Assembly Minority Leader John Faso in this competitive Hudson Valley seat.
● NY-24: Colleen Deacon, the DCCC's pick in the June Democratic primary, is out with her first ad, and it stars Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. The senator notes that Deacon, who used to run her local office, "worked her way through college, and raised her son as a single mom," and calls her "my point-person in the Syracuse region." Deacon is hoping to face freshman Republican Rep. John Katko in this 57-41 Obama seat.
● RI-01: Is this a candidate which I see before me? Hark, it be not! On Monday, state Rep. Karen MacBeth, who both joined the GOP and kicked off her bid against Democratic Rep. David Cicilline in late March, exited the race. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty race for this 66-32 Obama seat from day to day! MacBeth's campaign was a walking shadow, a poor player that strutted and fretted its hour upon the stage and then was heard no more. And so ends a campaign full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
● Where Are They Now?: Former Philadelphia Eagle Jon Runyan represented New Jersey for two terms in the House as a Republican, only to surprisingly retire in 2014. Less surprisingly, Runyan is going back to pro-football, though not as a player: Runyan will serve as the NFL's discipline officer, where he will be charged with imposing fines and suspensions for rules violations.
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.