● NH-01: On Monday, New Hampshire state Rep. Pam Tucker suspended her primary campaign against GOP incumbent Frank Guinta, citing her young family. Tucker's move is very bad news for Guinta, whom the state GOP has wanted to ditch ever since May, when the FEC ruled that he had illegally accepted a $355,000 campaign donation from his parents in 2010.
Guinta faces businessman Rich Ashooh in the September primary, and several prominent state GOP strategists recently formed a super PAC to help Ashooh. The congressman had just $76,000 in the bank at the end of March (Ashooh entered the race after the quarter ended), and his best chance to secure renomination was for Ashooh and Tucker to split the anti-Guinta vote. The filing deadline isn't until June 10, so it's possible that someone else will jump in and help Guinta. But if Guinta needs to win a one-on-one race with little money and little support, he's in deep trouble.
The news of Tucker's departure is also bad for Team Blue. Democrats would love to face someone as damaged as Guinta in this swing seat and while Ashooh is beatable, he doesn't appear to have any of Guinta's blemishes. Democrats also have their own very ugly primary to sort out. Ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who lost to Guinta in 2010 and 2014 but beat him in 2012, is trying to reclaim her seat once again, but she needs to get past wealthy businessman Shawn O'Connor first. A few weeks ago, O'Connor threatened to sue Shea-Porter for alleged defamation, claiming that she'd accused him of domestic abuse through a "whispering campaign."
Shea-Porter denied the charges, and the state Democratic Party soon said that O'Connor had threatened to sue them too. O'Connor proceeded to release a truly weird letter that, for no clear reason at all, accused one of Shea-Porter's prominent supporters of operating a restaurant that had "a long-standing problem with rodent infestations." O'Connor has mostly been self-funding his bid and at the end of March, he held a huge $722,000 to $254,000 cash-on-hand edge; Shea-Porter is very well-known, but O'Connor has the resources to at least make trouble for the next several months.
● FL-Sen: The Associated Industries of Florida is a business lobbying group that's affiliated with the National Association of Manufacturers, one of the most reactionary, conservative interests in the country. Yet AIF just teamed up with a Democratic pollster, ClearView Research, to release a poll of the Sunshine State that shows Republicans in terribly dire straits.
The survey finds Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy beating each of the four main GOP contenders by anywhere from 7 points (versus Rep. David Jolly) to 12 point (Rep. Ron DeSantis). The field is largely unknown, though, as Murphy doesn't top 42 percent in any matchup, and the Republicans are all in the high 20s to low 30s. (Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson either wasn't tested, apparently because the pollsters expect him to lose the primary. Oddly, Marco Rubio was. He beats Murphy, but he ain't runnin'.)
But the really grave news comes at the top of the ticket, where Hillary Clinton is beating Donald Trump by a nightmarish (for them!) 49-36 margin. She also leads also-ran Ted Cruz 48-39. It's not at all clear why AIF would even release these numbers. Is the group trying to shock its members into action? They're more apt to go into shock after seeing Clinton crushing it like this. Well, we'll take it.
● IA-Sen: When national Democrats made clear their preference for former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge's late entry into Iowa's Senate race (even the DSCC backed her), state Sen. Rob Hogg was still able to point to a wide array of endorsements from his colleagues in the legislature as a sign of his local support. However, all of those endorsements came before Judge joined the contest. Now, though, two labor organizations, which Bleeding Heartland describes as two of Iowa's largest, have gotten on board with Hogg: the Iowa Federation of Labor and AFSCME Council 61, a public employee union.
As much as these endorsements might help Hogg, though, he's still running a very underfunded campaign, raising just $58,000 in the first quarter of the year compared to $215,000 for Judge in just her first month on the trail. However, we have yet to see any public polls of the June 7 primary, where a few other minor candidates are also running for the right to take on longtime GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley.
● IN-Sen: How dead does Rep. Marlin Stutzman look ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary? Let's put it this way: If this were a cop show, Stutzman would be that guy who we first see proudly proclaiming that he's two days away from retirement. If this were an episode of Star Trek, Stutzman would be that redshirt who beamed down with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. If someone made a movie about this Senate campaign, Stutzman would be played by Sean Bean. He's that dead, Jim.
Marist takes a look at the race, and they find Rep. Todd Young blowing Stutzman out of the water by a 56-24 margin. A Public Opinion Strategies survey for two local media outlets gave Young a less-cruel 43-31 edge last week. Of course, the Rains of Castamere were already blasting nonstop in Stutzman's campaign headquarters before the polls started coming in. While establishment groups have been flooding the airwaves with ads supporting Young, Stutzman's nominal allies at the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund have stayed away, evidently deciding that Stutzman's weak campaign would be a waste of money. Maybe when Stutzman started running those ads stressing his background as a farmer, tea party-friendly organizations listened to their sixth sense that told them he was about to buy the farm.
● NH-Sen: Did you know that someone set up a super PAC for Lindsey Graham's presidential bid? Isn't that funny? Security is Strength—quite an Orwell-adjacent name there—hasn't closed up shop, though. Instead, it's now running an ad for GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Their spot tries to frighten voters by suggesting that Barack Obama wants to free all the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, but brave Sen. Ayotte wants to keep them there forever (or so it would seem). There's no word on the size of the buy, but the PAC's coffers contained just $294,000 at the end of March—a pretty good reflection of Lindsey Graham's popularity.
● OH-Sen: PPP's new Ohio poll finds the state's Senate race is completely knotted up, with GOP Sen. Rob Portman and former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland both taking 38 apiece while 23 percent of voters haven't yet made up their minds. That's similar to PPP's last poll from two months ago, which had Strickland ahead 41-40, but it's definitely a little odd to see such high—and growing—undecideds in a contest with two very well-known foes. That quirk notwithstanding, the margin is very similar to what we've seen from other outfits for quite some time.
Meanwhile, it appears that no harsh feelings have lingered (at least publicly) in the wake of the aggressive campaign that Cincinnati City Councilor P.G. Sittenfeld waged against Strickland in the March Democratic primary. Sittenfeld issued a video endorsement of Strickland on Monday, offering fulsome praise for his one-time opponent and admitting that the former governor "whooped mah butt."
● WI-Sen: Freedom Partners, a group once described as the "secret bank" atop the Koch brothers' pyramid, is spending $2 million to air a new ad attacking former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold. The minute-long spot features an Army veteran and Veterans Administration employee named Ryan Honl, who says he "blew the whistle" on the over-prescription of opiates at a VA facility in Wisconsin.
After various news clips (mostly from Fox), Honl, who has testified before Congress, then says that Feingold received a report about the problem from a government workers union but ignored it. (Feingold has sharply disputed this claim in the past, saying his office never received the memo.) Choking up, Honl then excoriates politicians who "look the other way" when "veterans … come back wounded and they die." Earlier this year, Honl had considered running as a Republican against Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, who supposedly also received this memo but has likewise said he did not.
● NC-Gov: We have two new polls, and they both show North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory trailing Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper —but each may be a bit too good to be true for the blue team. The most eye-popping result comes from the Republican pollster National Research on behalf of the conservative Civitas Institute, and they have Cooper destroying the governor 46-36. A new firm called RABA Research, which is run by Republican operative Tim Albrecht and Democrat Brad Anderson (who lost a tight 2014 general election for Iowa secretary of state), has Cooper up by a smaller 41-36.
However, as Harry Enten points out, RABA did the horserace question after asking respondents how they feel about HB2, the notorious anti-LGBT law that has led several businesses to cancel planned expansions into North Carolina. Respondents were then asked how they felt about McCrory's handling of HB2, whether HB2 should be repealed, and whether NASCAR's opposition to HB2 makes respondents more or less likely to oppose the law. It was only afterwards that the McCrory-Cooper question came up. This makes it difficult to read much into these results: Horse race numbers should always come before issue questions to avoid influencing respondents' answers.
National Research asked voters whom they planned to support for governor early, but their findings seem just too rosy for Democrats. Three other pollsters have released numbers since McCrory signed HB2, and none of them show McCrory losing this badly. PPP showed Cooper up just 43-42, while SurveyUSA and Elon University had him leading 47-43 and 48-42 respectively. We still have relatively little data, but at least for now, National Research seems just too bearish for their own party.
● VA-Gov: Over the weekend, ex-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced that he would not run for governor next year. Cuccinelli's decision undoubtedly comes as a big relief to GOP strategists. Cuccinelli was Team Red's 2013 nominee, and while he came close to beating Democrat Terry McAuliffe, his extreme socially conservative record and at times weird campaign (remember that half-hour long campaign ad that only a few braves souls dared to watch?) gave McAuliffe a major boost.
However, another Republican close to the Old Dominion's far-right contingent sounds ready to fill the void. Corey Stewart, the chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, tells the Associated Press that he plans to kick off a bid in October. Stewart is Donald Trump's Virginia campaign chair, and he's also made a name for himself by bashing undocumented immigrants. Even though Stewart made his announcement around the same time that Cuccinelli made his plans clear, Stewart was not about to defer to the former attorney general: Stewart took the time to accuse Cuccinelli of now being a member of the hated GOP establishment. (Also, why Stewart would announce his 2017 plans in October at the height of the 2016 election cycle is beyond us.)
Two other notable Republicans, ex-RNC Chair Ed Gillespie and Rep. Rob Whitman, have also made it clear that they intend to run to succeed the termed-out McAuliffe. (Whitman is still seeking re-election to his red House seat this fall.) Gillespie came shockingly close to unseating Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in 2014, and plenty of influential Republicans think he'll be able to beat a less-intimidating Democrat next year. However, Republicans will hold a nomination convention rather than a primary to select their standard bearer. Conventions tend to be dominated by delegates who care more about ideological purity than electability, and they're notoriously difficult to predict.
It's very possible that someone like Stewart will be more appealing to the delegates over a longtime DC insider like Gillespie or the pretty low-key Whitman. Still, Stewart lost the 2013 nomination for lieutenant governor to little-known minister E.W. Jackson, so this may still not be a good venue for him. And as the Stewart-Cuccinelli dust-up demonstrates, the far-right is far from a monolithic block. There's also a chance that someone else runs and scrambles the calculus. The Democratic field looks like it will be a lot less eventful. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is running and Attorney General Mark Herring, who looked like his most-likely rival, has already decided to seek re-election rather than challenge him.
● FL-02: Gov. Rick Scott is out with another one of his "this is not technically an endorsement" endorsements. Last week, he praised Mary Thomas, one of the four Republicans running for this safely red North Florida seat, at a Club for Growth event. According to audio obtained by Politico, Scott told the group that Thomas, who served as the general counsel to the Department of Elder Affairs in his administration, that "Mary came aboard with me right after I got elected back in 2010 and worked in my general counsel office, and to give her bragging rights, everything she touched, it worked," and added, "So thank you for helping her, and hopefully she has a big win." Scott's camp soon said that, "This is not an endorsement." (The Club for Growth actually has used the dreaded e-word when describing their support for Thomas.)
Scott pulled this stunt a little while ago in the crowded GOP primary for Senate, telling a group that he wished rich guy Carlos Beruff "unbelievable success," even while saying he wasn't going to endorse. As we've noted before, this kind of move is complete bullshit. Scott can't possibly be delusional enough to think that his comments to the Club about Thomas would stay in the room, or that Thomas and her allies won't use them when we get closer to the August primary. Rick Scott is many things, but he's not naive: He knew exactly what he was doing when he made this endorsement.
While Thomas has some very influential allies, physician Neal Dunn has a larger warchest than anyone else. Dunn has the support of more establishment-oriented politicians like ex-state House Speaker Will Weatherford, but he's smart enough to know how dangerous it is to be labeled as the establishment candidate in a GOP primary. That's why in Dunn's first TV ad, he emphasizes that he's a political outsider. Dunn tells the audience that DC won't change if they send another politician to Congress, and he talks about his background as a doctor, businessman, and veteran. Dunn and Thomas face well-connected attorney Ken Sukhia and underfunded tea partier Jeff Moran.
● IA-03: Investor Mike Sherzan has been running ads ahead of the June Democratic primary, and now veteran Jim Mowrer is joining him on the air. Mowrer speaks to the camera and talks about his background as a farmer and in the military, before telling the audience, "When we lost my dad, my family never would have made it without Social Security." Mowrer continues by saying that people feel that Congress "cares more about banks and Wall Street than you and me," and he pledges to work "for Main Street, not Wall Street." Sherzan and Mowrer are competing to take on freshman Republican David Young in this central Iowa swing seat.
● KY-01: Mike Pape, the longtime district director to retiring GOP Rep. Ed Whitfield, drew plenty of attention with his incredibly racist first spot ahead of the May 17 primary. Pape is running in a safely red western Kentucky seat that gave 75 percent of its vote to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz during the March caucus, and his second ad tries to appeal to both their supporters. It features a man caucusing for Cruz and woman backing Trump agreeing that Pape will repeal Obamacare and will build the border wall.
The two also charge that primary foe James Comer (the former state agriculture commissioner) "refuses to repeal Obamacare" and is "for Obama's amnesty." Comer's also running as an ardent conservative, and it's not clear what (if anything) they're basing those charges on: Unlike some ads that shows some on-screen text that cites some vague news article, congressional vote, or website, there's nothing like that here.
● MN-02: Obama only narrowly won this open suburban Twin Cities seat, and neither party can take anything for granted here. Still, Team Blue has to be feeling good about the money race. Former health care executive Angie Craig faces no major Democratic opposition, and she's stockpiling a good-sized warchest. Craig raised $411,000 from donors during the first three months of the year, and she loaned herself an additional $100,000. Craig has $1.3 million in the bank as of March 31.
The GOP side is going to take a lot longer to sort out. Businesswoman Darlene Miller has the support of retiring Rep. John Kline, and she hauled in a decent $207,000 from donors during her inaugural quarter; Miller has $160,000 on-hand. Ex-state Sen. John Howe has almost been entirely self-funding his bid, and he has $672,000 in the bank. Former conservative radio host Jason Lewis and tea partying perennial candidate David Gerson have $111,000 and $136,000 banked, respectively.
Democrats would love to face either Lewis, who has a history of on-air racist and sexist tirades, or Gerson in November, and there's a possibility it'll happen. On May 7, the GOP will hold its endorsement convention. Winning the party's endorsement is not the same thing at all as winning the party's nomination, but it's still important in Minnesota: Many candidates and voters take it seriously, and some contenders will end their campaigns if they don't get it. The Pioneer Press' David Montgomery reports that the endorsement is likely to go to either Lewis or Gerson, though these things are very difficult to handicap.
Gerson and Lewis have each pledged to drop out if they don't get the endorsement, though they haven't said what they'll do if no one gets it. (It takes 60 percent of the delegates' votes to claim the endorsement.) Howe and Miller sound ready to continue on ahead to the Aug. 9 primary no matter what happens. If Gerson or Lewis claim the endorsement over the weekend, it will give them a boost in August, though it far from guarantees a primary victory. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup.
● MN-07: Last cycle, the GOP made its first serious attempt to unseat conservative Democrat Collin Peterson in ages only to come away empty handed. Even with a GOP wave working against him, Peterson decisively beat state Sen. Torrey Westrom 54-46 in this rural 54-44 Romney seat, and that blowout seems to have deterred credible Republicans this year.
Over the weekend, Air Force veteran David Hughes won the important GOP state party endorsement. Hughes looks very much like the paragon of Some Dudeness: While he filed with the FEC at the end of February, he apparently raised so little money that he didn't need to report his first quarter haul. The two Republicans Hughes beat each had less than $11,000 in the bank as of March 31: It's not clear if they'll continue their campaign, but it just may not matter. The Minnesota candidate filing deadline isn't until May 31, but it's tough to see any credible contenders jumping in after the state party endorsement has gone to someone else.
The one thing that could give the GOP some hope is that Peterson doesn't appear to have announced that he's running again. Last cycle, Peterson didn't make it clear if he'd seek another term until March, and he's the type of guy who seems to likes to keep people guessing. The good news is that we'll know by the end of the month what the congressman is doing.
● NE-02: The DCCC recently launched an ad ahead of next week's GOP primary designed to help ex-state Sen. Chip Maxwell defeat national Republican favorite Don Bacon, and their second commercial also tries to prop up Maxwell. The narrator calls Bacon an establishment politician who took "tens of thousands of dollars from Washington insiders and establishment politicians," while he promotes Maxwell as someone who's "fighting for conservative principles and bucking the party establishment." The spot even throws in a clip of Maxwell saying that he won't raise the debt ceiling. The ad is part of the DCCC's $437,000 buy.
Neither Bacon, a retired brigadier general, nor Maxwell look like very strong candidates against Democratic freshman Brad Ashford, but Maxwell is a particularly weak contender. While Bacon has just $71,000 in the bank as of April 20, Maxwell had an even-worse $31,000. Bacon did outspend Maxwell $118,000 to $11,000 during the first few weeks of April, but the DCCC's expensive move will definitely help Maxwell get his name out.
Romney carried this Omaha seat 53-46, and this is one of Team Red's few pickup opportunities this cycle. The national GOP will likely help Bacon fundraise, weak as he is, if he emerges with the GOP nod. But Maxwell, who threatened to run as an independent last cycle, barely seems to be running a campaign, and national Republicans may just decide to triage this seat until 2018 instead of wasting resources to prop him up. It remains to be seen if GOP groups will run any ads for Bacon in the final week of the primary, or if the DCCC will control the airwaves.
● NV-03: Jacky Rosen is the favored candidate of the DCCC and Sen. Harry Reid in the June Democratic primary, but she has a lot less money than self-funding attorney Jesse Sbaih. However, Rosen did recently pick up a useful endorsement from the state AFL-CIO. Both parties are planning to contest this open swing seat.
● NY-03: On Monday, retiring Rep. Steve Israel endorsed Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern in the June Democratic primary for this swing seat. Back in January, The Island Now reported that Israel had helped another candidate, North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, prepare for a campaign even before he announced he would retire. Israel's camp denied it off-the-record, and this move finally puts to bed the question of who Israel is backing. Stern hired several of Israel's old staffers when he kicked off his bid, so this endorsement doesn't come out of left field.
Besides Kaplan, Stern faces ex-Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman this summer. Stern had the largest warchest at the end of March and the support of several Suffolk County politicians, most notably County Executive Steve Bellone. However, Suozzi entered the race with plenty of name recognition, and it's too early to say who has the edge here. The winner will take on Republican state Sen. Jack Martins.
● NY-13: Confirming reports from late last week that he'd do so, retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel unambiguously endorsed Assemblyman Keith Wright to succeed him at an event on Saturday. (Rep. Jose Serrano, who represents a neighboring district, was also in attendance.) Rangel, who'd long made his preference for Wright known in less direct ways, also took a few shots at one of Wright's main rivals in the Democratic primary, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat. Espaillat unsuccessfully challenged Rangel in both 2012 and 2014, and both times, Rangel questioned Espaillat's commitment to running for the House by pointing out that his opponent then ran for re-election to the state Senate after his congressional losses. Espaillat has refused to pledge not to run for the Senate this year as well, something Rangel again rapped him for.
● House: The NRCC recently reserved fall ad time in four media markets, and their counterparts at the DCCC have now reserved a total of $32 million in fall TV time. Morning Consult provides a list of how much money is going into each media market, and which seats the DCCC says are being targeted:
Denver, CO: $3.4 million (CO-06)
Miami, FL: $3.85 million (FL-26)
Cedar Rapids, IA: $1 million (IA-01)
Des Moines, IA: $790,000 (IA-03)
Bangor and Portland, ME: $871,000 (ME-02)
Minneapolis, MN: $6.5 million (MN-02, MN-03)
Omaha, NE: $1.72 million (NE-02)
Boston, MA and Manchester, NH: $2.73 million (NH-01)
Las Vegas, NV: $6.6 million (NV-03, NV-04)
Philadelphia, PA: $2.8 million (PA-08)
Washington, DC: $1.9 million (VA-10)
With the exception of NE-02, all of these are Republican-held seats, and none of these targets are surprising. House Majority PAC, another well-funded Democratic group, has also made major fall ad reservations in many of these markets as well. As we always note, these reservations can be cut back, canceled, or expanded as we get closer to Election Day.
● Indiana: On Tuesday, the Hoosier State will hold its presidential primary. Polls in most of the state close at 6 PM ET, with the small portion of the state in the Central time zone closing an hour later. As always, we'll be liveblogging all the results at Daily Kos Elections, as well as live-tweeting.
We also have a few down-ballot races to watch in Indiana. The GOP establishment looks likely to claim a big win in the Senate primary, but the Club for Growth hopes to score a victory in the 3rd Congressional District. But perhaps the most interesting contest will be in the 9th District, where wealthy Tennessee transplant Trey Hollingsworth is trying to beat three local politicians and take the GOP nod. Check out Jeff Singer's guide to all three races for more.
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.