● IN-Gov: On Friday, Donald Trump announced that Gov. Mike Pence would be his running mate on the GOP's presidential ticket. Pence was already the Republican nominee for governor of Indiana, but state law prevented him from appearing on the ballot twice, meaning that Pence had to withdraw from the gubernatorial race to join Trump. He did so just ahead of the July 15 deadline.
Pence was facing a tough re-election contest against Democratic nominee John Gregg, a former speaker of the state House whom he narrowly beat in 2012, and a second four-year term was by no means assured. But now Pence's departure has turned this election upside-down.
The new Republican nominee will be chosen on July 26 by the state party's 22-member central committee. As VP speculation about Pence crescendoed, plenty of Hoosier Republicans expressed interest in replacing him, but some were forced to make up their minds very quickly: Anyone who was already on the general election ballot for a different office needed to give up their slots by Friday for the central committee to be able to legally consider them.
That difficulty ensnared two members of Congress, Reps. Todd Rokita and Susan Brooks, who were both running for re-election to the House. However, they withdrew their candidacies on Friday in order to put their names forward for the gubernatorial nod. So, too, did, Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who was only elevated to his current position back in March when the previous lieutenant governor resigned.
Both House members are taking a risk by sacrificing their re-election campaigns for the chance to run for governor, but they do have a potential escape hatch. In both congressional races, new GOP nominees will be chosen by a caucus of local precinct chairs, and there's nothing stopping them from just choosing the incumbents again, should the central committee pass either of them over for the gubernatorial nomination. However, Roll Call cautions that, while it's likely that Rokita and Brooks would be able to pull this off, nothing's assured. Both seats are safely Republican.
Meanwhile, anyone who was not already running for some other office can also still enter the race and ask the central committee to pick them for the governor's race, so we may see more names pop up. So far, though, only one notable possibility has surfaced, and he's already said no: Ex-Gov. Mitch Daniels, who preceded Pence in office and likely would have been Team Red's strongest candidate, has announced that he will not seek a comeback.
Regardless of who enters, the race for the GOP gubernatorial nod is now essentially a primary with just 22 voters, making it very difficult to handicap. You can make a case that Holcomb, a former state party chair with plenty of friends in the GOP establishment, will have the edge, but he has serious weaknesses, too: He ran for Senate earlier this cycle but raised very little money and ended up dropping out when Pence offered him the lieutenant governor's post. And whoever the committee chooses, that candidate will have to raise a lot of money in just a short timeframe to get his or her name out. Gregg, meanwhile, is sitting on a $5.8 million war chest and has been campaigning for over a year. However, the Republican Governors Association has already been spending heavily here, and they're unlikely to allow Team Blue to monopolize the airwaves while the new GOP nominee gets organized.
With matters now in the central committee's hands, it's going to take another week for things to settle here. But while Indiana is a conservative state and the GOP usually is favored in statewide contests, plenty of Hoosiers still split their ballots: Mitt Romney carried the state 54-44 in 2012, but Pence only beat Gregg 50-47. Pence's brutal mishandling of the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which he signed into law last year) had created a real opening for Gregg, enough for us to rate the general election as Lean Republican when Pence was still running. But the governor's replacement will face obstacles, too, so we're holding fast to our current rating—at least until the new GOP nominee is chosen, and very possibly even then.
2Q Fundraising: In addition to the fresh numbers below, be sure to check out our complete chart of all Senate fundraising numbers to date.
● LA-Sen: John Fleming (R): $536,000 raised, $2.4 million cash-on-hand; Caroline Fayard (D): $273,000 raised, $634,000 cash-on-hand; Josh Pellerin (D): $54,000 raised, $2,300 cash-on-hand
● MO-Gov: Chris Koster (D): $3.5 million raised, $10 million cash-on-hand
● AZ-Sen: Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick is going up on TV for the first time, and her campaign has announced that she will spend $1.5 million over the next six weeks on ads. Kirkpatrick's team has not released any of the spots yet or said what they will be about.
● CO-Sen, FL-Sen, NC-Sen: What a difference a day makes. On Thursday, Quinnipiac released a batch of Senate polls in three different states that offered fairly dismal numbers for Democrats—numbers we cautioned dissented from the polling averages. But on Friday, Marist issued its own trio of Senate polls that look starkly different, particularly in the one state, Florida, where both schools went into the field. Here are the newest results, along with the presidential toplines:
CO: Michael Bennet (D-inc): 53, Darryl Glenn (R) 38; Clinton 43-35
FL: Marco Rubio (R-inc): 47, Patrick Murphy (D): 44; Clinton 44-37
NC Richard Burr (R-inc): 48, Deborah Ross (D): 41; Clinton 44-38
In the Sunshine State, by contrast, Quinnipiac had Rubio beating Murphy 50-37 and Clinton trailing Trump 42-39. So who to believe? Again, look at the polling averages. HuffPo Pollster has Clinton ahead 43-41 and Rubio up 45-40, taking these latest polls into account. The two outfits, therefore, are perfectly split on the presidential margin compared to the aggregate (though Marist agrees on who's winning), while Marist is much closer to the middle on Senate side.
In Colorado, HuffPo doesn't have enough data to calculate a proper overall trendline yet, though Marist's Senate margin is the same as that found in a recent Fox poll conducted jointly by a Democratic and Republican pollster. And as for North Carolina, Marist is somewhat more bearish on Ross than HuffPo's 42-38 average in Burr's favor, but interestingly, that comes despite Clinton holding a lead twice that of her 45-42 aggregate score. But if you're a Democrat and you find yourself liking Marist's numbers more than Quinnipiac's just because they look more appealing, that's a good reason to pause and check the overall picture before drawing any conclusions.
● FL-Sen: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC will launch a $1 million TV ad campaign for Rep. Patrick Murphy that will begin in the next few days. SMP did not go into detail about whether the ads would just boost Murphy or if they would target Rep. Alan Grayson, Murphy's opponent in the Aug. 30 primary.
National Republicans have made it clear that they would prefer to face Grayson instead of Murphy, and a week ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce began a $1.5 million campaign attacking Murphy over allegations that he inflated his resume. Another conservative group, the Senate Leadership Fund, is also up with a new ad using the same argument against Murphy. The spot is airing for $1.45 million.
Meanwhile, the GOP group Florida First Project is airing an ad against rich guy Carlos Beruff, who is challenging GOP Sen. Marco Rubio in the primary. The spot ties Beruff to ex-Gov. Charlie Crist, who was elected as a Republican in 2006, ran for Senate as an independent in 2010 (against Rubio), and is currently seeking the 13th Congressional District as a Democrat. The narrator argues that Beruff donated to Crist 33 times and even backed him after Crist left the GOP. The ad is airing for $738,000.
● MO-Sen: It has been a very long time since we've seen a poll of the Missouri Senate race, and PPP's new release gives Team Blue some good news. Their survey gives Republican Sen. Roy Blunt just a 41-38 lead against Democrat Jason Kander, Missouri's secretary of state. The poll has Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton 46-36 here, so it's tough to argue that the sample is just too Democratic. Kander himself is barely known, with voters giving him an 18-20 favorable score. However, Blunt posts a weak 31-42 approval rating. Democrats and Republicans are both about equally unified behind their candidate, though independents favor Blunt 39-30.
Missouri is generally a conservative state and Clinton and her allies haven't shown much interest in targeting its 10 electoral votes, so if Kander's going to prevail, he'll likely need to win over a number of voters who dislike Blunt but still plan to back Trump. That's doable, but it won't be easy, especially once Blunt starts to tie Kander to Clinton and President Obama, whom PPP finds are both very unpopular in the Show Me State.
So far, no major Democratic outside groups have aired ads here or made reservations for the fall. However, the GOP group One Nation recently spent $1.5 million on ads for Blunt while Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, reserved $2.5 million here for the fall, a sign that they agree Blunt is potentially vulnerable. Daily Kos Elections rates this seat as Likely Republican.
● PA-Sen: GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is going up with a new TV spot against Democrat Katie McGinty that argues that he'll do more to protect Pennsylvania. The narrator argues that McGinty "supports the Iran deal that enriches our enemies, applauds closing Guantanamo prison and moving its terrorists to the U.S. McGinty would allow sanctuary cities that even many Democrats say are too dangerous." The spot then says Toomey wants to do the exact opposite. It's pretty rare to see the GOP still attacking Democrats in ads over the Iran deal, and Guantanamo hasn't been a major election issue in a long time either.
● MO-Gov: The four-way Missouri GOP gubernatorial primary is coming up on Aug. 2, and PPP finds a tight race. They give retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens a tiny 24-22 edge against former U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway; rich guy John Brunner and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder are a bit behind with 16 and 15 percent, respectively. The only other recent poll we've seen came from Remington Research on behalf of the political newsletter Missouri Scout, and they had Greitens leading Brunner instead, and by a stronger 29-22; Hanaway and Kinder were taking 16 and 12 percent.
PPP notes that none of the candidates are incredibly well-known, with at least 40 percent of primary voters not expressing an opinion of each candidate, so things can definitely change as we get closer to Election Day. The winner will face Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, who has just minor primary opposition.
● NC-Gov: In addition to testing the presidential and Senate races in the Tarheel State, Marist also took a look at North Carolina's hotly contested gubernatorial battle and finds Democrat Roy Cooper leading Republican Gov. Pat McCrory by a 49-45 margin. PPP, which polls its home state frequently, has consistently found a jump ball here, and the HuffPo average has the race tied at 42. If Cooper's really brushing up against 50, that would be a very grave sign indeed for McCrory.
● CA-24: Equestrian enthusiast Justin Fareed, who unexpectedly emerged as the Republican standard-bearer after last month's top-two primary, is circulating a new poll from the Tarrance Group that shows him leading his Democratic opponent, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, by a 46-44 margin. The bare-bones memo doesn't offer numbers for the presidential race, though, so it's a little hard to credit the House toplines since there's no way to conduct any kind of sanity check. What's more, Democrats combined for a 54-44 edge over Republicans in the primary; while that might not be destiny, the burden is on Fareed to show otherwise. Carbajal hasn't responded, but this poll has gotten very little play.
● FL-02: While physician Neal Dunn's ads portray him as a political outsider, he has plenty of allies in the GOP establishment. Politico reports that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has raised money for Dunn, who faces two opponents in the Aug. 30 primary for this safely red seat.
● GA-03: Georgia's 3rd Congressional District may be safely Republican, but the July 26 GOP primary runoff to succeed retiring Rep. Lynn Westmoreland is anything but boring. A few months ago, state Sen. Mike Crane, a vocal opponent of no-knock warrants, provocatively told a crowd that if police "come to my house, kick down my door—if I have an opportunity, I will shoot you dead. And every one of you should do the same." That's not the kind of thing you can say and have it go unnoticed, and indeed, Crane's opponent, dentist Drew Ferguson, was only too glad to call attention to these incendiary remarks. To that end, Ferguson recently ran ad featuring a local sheriff who denounced Crane and declared that the senator's comments would get his officers killed.
Crane quickly went up with a spot in response denouncing Ferguson's commercial, telling viewers that both his father and uncle were police officers. But Crane's "some of my best friends are cops" routine did nothing to deter Ferguson, who released a new TV ad once again blasting Crane as reckless.
Ferguson's new spot starts with a video of Crane's infamous speech, before the narrator declares that "[p]olitician Mike Crane has threatened to shoot police officers serving a warrant." Crane's speech plays again, and the narrator says that local sheriffs are denouncing him. The commercial then shows a local reporter asking Crane, "You said you'd shoot and kill them," before Crane interrupts by saying, "If I could."
It's unclear how much Ferguson is putting behind this commercial as Election Day approaches, but voters are almost certainly seeing more of his ads than Crane's. From May 5 to July 6, Ferguson outspent Crane $370,000 to $200,000. Crane's made up some of the gap thanks to help he's been getting on the airwaves from the anti-tax Club for Growth. However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an establishment group which often clashes with the tea party-friendly Club in GOP primaries, has started what Greg Giroux reports is a $650,000 ad buy to boost Ferguson. The commercial stars none other than Westmoreland, who praises Ferguson's record as mayor of the small town of West Point. Politico also reports that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been raising money for Ferguson.
With all these advantages, Ferguson's camp is arguing that it has a decided edge going into the final week. The campaign is out with a Meeting Street Research poll giving Ferguson a 45-36 lead; an unreleased June poll had Crane up by a much smaller 38-36 margin. The only other released poll was a Clout Research survey on behalf of the blog zpolitics that put Ferguson ahead 41-35. Crane hasn't offered any contradictory data, a silence that speaks volumes.
● KS-01: Clout Research is out with a survey, which The Hutchinson News says is an independent poll, of the Aug. 2 primary for this safely red seat, and they give physician Roger Marshall a 49-42 edge over Rep. Tim Huelskamp. The only other recent poll was a June internal for Marshall that had Huelskamp up 42-41.
As we've noted before, Clout is the successor to Wenzel Strategies, which was one of the worst polling firms in the business, so Marshall shouldn't take anything for granted. Still, the results are plausible. Huelskamp's opposition to agriculture subsidies has not played well in this very rural seat, and he only beat an underfunded foe 55-45 in the 2014 primary. Marshall has the money to get his name out, and the group Ending Spending recently began airing ads for him. However, the tea party-friendly Club for Growth has come to Huelskamp's aid.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and Stephen Wolf.