● Demographics: You're probably aware that urban areas (big cities and inner-ring suburbs) are the main geographic source of strength for the Democrats today. A new article from Pew Research demonstrates how lopsided that's gotten. They look at the Democratic percentage of the vote in the nation's 100 most populous counties over the period from 1976 to 2012, and find that it shot up from 51.6 percent in 1976 to 60.8 percent in 2012. The Republican nominee won 43 of the 100 largest counties in 1976 and carried a majority of them over the next three elections, but lost ground soon after. In 2012, Mitt Romney took only 14 of them.
One key detail is that those 100 counties themselves change somewhat over the years; however, 83 counties were in the top 100 both in 1976 and 2012. Of those 83, Pew highlights which ones moved most strongly in the Democratic direction. Prince George's County, Maryland, which moved from demographically-mixed to mostly-black in that period, was the biggest gainer. In most cases, the shift was from swingy to dark-blue, but one key exception is DuPage County, Illinois, which went from dark-red to about even today.
Unfortunately, this good news also illustrates exactly what's behind the Democrats' current biggest problem. As it becomes easier to win presidential elections (with many of the states with the largest metro areas moving in Team Blue's direction), it also becomes harder to win the House. Even without taking the role of gerrymandering into consideration, Democrats are the increasingly distributed unevenly around the country, which makes it easier to draw maps that favor the GOP.
● FL-Sen: The American Future Fund, a super PAC that had backed Sen. Marco Rubio during the Republican presidential primaries, is now stepping in to help him in his bid for re-election by mucking about in the Democratic primary. The group's new spot attacks Rep. Patrick Murphy for voting in favor of the Export-Import Bank, which the ad says amounts to "billions in corporate welfare." The narrator also says the Murphy "voted against blocking state sponsors of terror, like Iran and Syria, from benefitting from those same billions."
It sounds like a double-barreled message designed to ding Murphy with populist-minded liberals as well as hawkish older Jewish voters and thus drive them toward Rep. Alan Grayson, whom Republicans would prefer to face in November. It's not clear what the exact size of the buy is, though Politico reports that AFF and another GOP organization, the Florida First Project, are spending a combined $900,000. The FFP ad, which we wrote about previously, is airing for $738,000, so presumably that means AFF's is for about $162,000.
● NH-Sen: A new ad from AFSCME features a woman who takes care of her elderly mother slamming GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte for wanting to turn Medicare into a voucher program and raise the retirement age. The spot features effective, authentic-looking footage of the woman helping out her mother, who is shown using an oxygen tank in an ordinary, humble home. In response, Ayotte released an ad directly countering this one, featuring a woman who says, "When I see those false ads attacking Kelly on Medicare, I wonder, do they think that we're stupid?" A parade of seniors then praise Ayotte but of course offer no factual pushback.
● NH-Sen: UNH: Maggie Hassan (D): 45, Kelly Ayotte (R-inc): 42.
● NV-Sen: This week, the League of Conservation Voters launched a $750,000 ad campaign that will last for the rest of the month. Their first spot argues that Republican Joe Heck is in the pocket of "the big oil billionaire Koch brothers." The narrator argues that Heck takes their donations and votes for tax breaks for oil companies and against Nevada's solar economy.
● OH-Sen: Suffolk: Rob Portman (R-inc): 37, Ted Strickland (D): 33.
● PA-Sen: Democrat Katie McGinty has released her first ad of the general election campaign, and it hits themes similar to those she focused on in her unsuccessful gubernatorial bid two years ago. McGinty narrates the spot, quickly rattling off the names of all nine of her siblings before mentioning that her parents raised this ginormous family on the salary of a policeman and a restaurant hostess. "Imagine," says McGinty, "trying to do that today, with Washington looking out for the favored few." McGinty promises to "put middle-class families ahead of Wall Street." There's no word on the size of the buy.
Meanwhile, the League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Defense Fund have released their second ad as part of a $1.5 million campaign to help McGinty. A narrator says that while "too many communities are hurting" in Pennsylvania, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey has "put the rich and powerful ahead of the rest of us." The narrator then repeatedly invokes "Big Oil polluters," saying Toomey voted to give energy companies $24 billion in tax breaks and, not so coincidentally, has received $700,000 in contributions from the oil and gas industry. One thing to note about figures like this, though, is that they include donations from employees of energy firms, who might simply support Toomey for reasons that have nothing to do with their employment.
● WI-Sen: In the last week, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Democrat Russ Feingold each went up with a new ad focused on national security. Johnson's spot features footage of the aftermath of several recent attacks, which Johnson sums up as "Islamic terrorists' slaughtering innocents." He then slams Feingold for voting against the Patriot Act when he was in the Senate in 2001, which Johnson characterizes as a vote against giving "law enforcement the tools to stop international terror." Johnson concludes by saying the world's too dangerous to give Feingold a fourth term. Interestingly, while most campaigns usually employ a scary-voiced narrator to attack their opponent, Johnson does the dirty work himself. Feingold's commercial features him laying out his plan to beat ISIS, and he does not mention Johnson.
● IN-Gov: GOP Rep. Todd Rokita is hoping that his state party's central committee picks him to replace Gov. Mike Pence on this fall's gubernatorial ballot on Tuesday, and he's buttressing his lobbying efforts with some data.
Rokita just released a poll from Public Opinion Strategies showing that he'd start off with a 45-43 lead on Democrat John Gregg; there's also an informed-ballot result that shows Rokita would win 54-41 after respondents hear about both candidates' backgrounds. But naturally, Rokita didn't include any numbers for other potential Republicans, which makes this poll fairly weak tea: It doesn't demonstrate that Rokita would be a stronger pick than anyone else, and presumably the other serious contenders—Rep. Susan Brooks and Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb—are showing similar surveys of their own to the central committee.
On a separate note, Republicans are also wondering what Pence will do with his considerable $7 million war chest, since federal law prohibits him from transferring the money to the presidential race. He could, though, conceivably donate it to a super PAC that would then help the Trump-Pence ticket, though that might look a bit unseemly (not that such considerations would bother Donald Trump). Alternately, Pence could apparently give some or all of his cash to whichever substitute the GOP selects. Since his replacement would enter the race at a big financial deficit to Gregg, there will probably be pressure on Pence to share the wealth rather than sit on it like Evan Bayh did.
● MO-Gov: With less than two weeks to go before the four-way GOP primary, rich guy John Brunner is continuing to attack retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens and ignore his other two foes, ex-US Attorney Catherine Hanaway and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. Once again, Brunner argues that Greitens, who considered running for Congress as a Democrat in 2009, is not a real Republican.
Brunner's new ad insists that Greitens "opposes religious liberty, and favors gay marriage and amnesty for illegals." The spot also features an excerpt of a letter Greitens wrote to "President-elect Obama and Congressional Leaders," that the narrator says "asked for billions in stimulus spending." (Greitens wrote the letter as the head of his non-profit, which focuses on helping veterans, but the narrator doesn't note that.) The ad ends by noting that Greitens also attended Obama's 2008 nominating convention. Brunner is never mentioned in the commercial.
● WV-Gov: GOP state Senate President Bill Cole is out with his first negative spot and unsurprisingly, he ties rival Jim Justice as closely to national Democrats as he can. The narrator argues that Justice and his family "donated over $60,000 to Obama's re-election campaign, even after Obama promised to bankrupt coal! And even after Hillary Clinton vowed to put coal miners out of work!" The rest of the commercial highlights that Cole stands with Donald Trump, who the narrator says "stands up for our coal industry."
Team Blue has won the last four gubernatorial contests in West Virginia, but ex-state Sen. Charlotte Pritt, the last losing Democratic nominee, could help break the GOP's losing streak. Pritt, who lost the 1996 race to Republican Cecil Underwood by a 52-46 margin, will be competing in the general election as the left-wing Mountain Party's nominee. This isn't the first time Pritt has made trouble for her old party. In 1992, Pritt challenged sitting Gov. Gaston Caperton in the Democratic primary and lost 43-35. Afterwards, Pritt ran as a write-in and won 7 percent of the vote in the general; however, Caperton came nowhere close to losing his bid for a second term.
Four years later, Pritt defeated none other than Joe Manchin, who now serves as West Virginia's senior U.S. senator, 40-33 in the gubernatorial primary. However, Manchin got his revenge in 2000, when he beat her 51-29 in the primary for secretary of state. After 16 years off the ballot, it's very possible that not many people remember Pritt. However, despite Cole's ads, Justice is far from a liberal's liberal, and if Pritt can peel off a few disappointed left-leaning voters, Cole won't complain.
● AZ-05: OH Predictive Insights is out with a July 19 poll of the Aug. 30 primary for this safely red seat, and they find a big shift in the last month. Former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones leads state Senate President Andy Biggs, who is backed by retiring Rep. Matt Salmon, by a 26-19 margin. Ex-Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley takes 15, and state Rep. Justin Olson is at 9. In June, they found Biggs leading Stapley 21-10, with Jones taking just 7 percent. The group tells us the poll was not conducted for a client.
The pollster attributes Jones' surge to heavy spending, and they may be right. Jones, a 2014 gubernatorial candidate who has loaned her campaign about $400,000, only began airing ads at the end of June. Jones has outspent Stapley $249,000 to $116,00 so far, with Biggs just behind. (Olsen continues to raise and spend little.) Jones' ads (here and here) unsurprisingly play up her business background and refusal to take special interest money and bash the Obama administration. Biggs, who won $10 million in the 1993 Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, may be able to do some significant self-funding, though Jones probably has more money to burn than him. The anti-tax group the Club for Growth is backing Biggs, so he may have some air support soon.
● FL-11: Rep. Dan Webster has picked up an endorsement from the REALTORS Political Action Committee, the political arm of the National Association of Realtors, ahead of the Aug. 30 GOP primary. NAR tends to spend heavily for its candidates, so this is a good get for Webster, who has a tough race. Webster only represents 18 percent of the new 11th District, and while he's outraised primary foe Justin Grabelle, Webster's $279,000 to $130,000 cash-on-hand edge isn't incredible. Grabelle has the support of his old boss, retiring Rep. Rich Nugent.
● FL-18: Wealthy Democrat Randy Perkins is out with two new ads ahead of the primary. Perkins' first ad once again focuses on the recent outbreak of algae along Florida's Treasure Coast. Perkins warns that if they don't deal with the problem now, it'll still be around in 10 years when it's too late to fix. Perkins focuses on his career managing disaster recovery, arguing that he's equipped to solve this issue. Perkins' second spot features him and his daughters, who also highlight his business background, as well as his support for women's rights. The self-funding Perkins is the DCCC's favored candidate, and at the end of June, he held a $2.2 million to $239,000 cash-on-hand edge over primary rival Jonathan Chane.
Perkins' buy is for a reported 500 gross ratings points per week, or GRPs. This term is rarely encountered by lay people but is used universally by media buyers because it measures advertising impact across markets in a uniform way, regardless of how cheap or expensive ads actually are. GRPs gauge how many times, on average, members of your target audience have seen your ad, with one GRP equal to one percent of the audience watching an ad one time. In this case, where the buy is for 500 GRPs, a buyer might say that 100 percent of the audience has watched this spot five times, though of course it could also mean that 50 percent has seen it 10 times.
An old rule of thumb holds that a message advertised on broadcast television has reached saturation levels at 1,000 GRPs—in other words, when 100 percent of your audience has seen it 10 times. But in the modern multi-platform media landscape, and particularly given the rise of DVRs, that number has crept higher and higher, though there's some disagreement about what constitutes saturation nowadays.
● FL-18: The GOP has a crowded Aug. 30 primary in this 52-48 Romney seat and while wealthy tea partying physician Marc Freeman and Martin County School Board member Rebecca Negron have aired most of the ads here, veteran Brian Mast is hoping to get some attention with his new spot. Mast not-so-subtly compares Democratic leaders to terrorists: Mast says that "[w]hen our country asked me to go under the cover of darkness and fight evil, I led the way, giving everything I have. Now, that darkness has fallen over Washington, DC at the hands of political insiders," as an image of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid flashes by. While Mast doesn't directly note that he lost both his legs in Afghanistan, he points to his prosthetic limbs at the end when he says he "served without regard to personal sacrifice."
● FL-19: Ex-Ambassador Francis Rooney has been airing TV ads like there's no tomorrow ahead of the Aug. 30 primary for this safely red seat, but rival Chauncey Goss is up with a spot. Goss starts by insisting that he's "not a career politician or a Washington insider," and that he "didn't plan to run for Congress." Goss is the son of a former congressman and a former aide to Paul Ryan, and he also ran for this seat in 2012, so he's not exactly a political novice. Goss goes on to emphasize national security and the debt.
Unless some outside groups are willing to spend a ton on Goss or ex-Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, there's no doubt that Rooney will control the airwaves for the next few weeks. During the last quarter, Rooney outraised Goss $511,000 to $171,000, with Bongino taking in just $84,000. Rooney also donated $1.5 million to his campaign, far more than the $25,000 Goss loaned himself.
● GA-03: The GOP runoff for this safely red seat is on Tuesday, and allies of both state Sen. Mike Crane and dentist Drew Ferguson are dropping more money for the homestretch. Politico reports that the Club for Growth is spending another $200,000 on a previously-released ad portraying Ferguson as too liberal.
On the other side, the group ESAFund (formally known as Ending Spending Action Fund) is spending at least $400,000 on their first ad of the campaign. Like Ferguson, ESA seizes on Crane's provocative comments from a few months ago, where he 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." The ESA spot's narrator lauds police for risking their lives for their communities, and denounces Crane's comments. The narrator also quotes local Sheriff Mike Jolley, who appeared in a Ferguson ad blasting Crane, saying that Crane "is telling the bad guys, even if you know it's a police officer, go ahead and shoot them."
● KS-01: The House Liberty Project, a group run by former aides and consultants to Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, is spending $108,000 (here and here) on a spot in support of tea partying Rep. Tim Huelskamp. The commercial argues that physician Roger Marshall, Huelskamp's opponent in the Aug. 2 GOP primary, receives thousands of dollars in donations from DC lobbyists. The narrator says that Marshall and his allies back "[a]mnesty for illegal immigrants," "[a] tax on everything you buy on the internet," and "[h]andouts for companies in China and Saudi Arabia."
● MN-02: Obama carried this open suburban Twin Cities seat by just 0.10 percent, but you wouldn't know that by looking at the GOP's candidates. Former conservative radio host Jason Lewis won the state party's endorsement in May. That's not the same thing as winning the Republican nomination, but many voters and elected officials take the party endorsement very seriously, and it should give him a boost in the Aug. 9 primary. However, Lewis is far from an ideal Republican nominee in a swing seat. Lewis has a long history of on-air racist and misogynistic remarks that he continues to stand behind. Lewis also is a pretty weak fundraiser, and he has just $125,000 on-hand.
Businesswoman Darlene Miller doesn't have Lewis' baggage, and she has the backing of retiring Rep. John Kline. However, while Miller's $210,000 warchest is larger than Lewis', it's still not great for a competitive race. A third candidate, ex-state Sen. John Howe, has been doing virtually no fundraising. Howe loaned himself over $600,000 at the beginning of the race, and he still has $495,000 left in the bank. However, it's unclear how much more Howe's able or willing to drop for his primary campaign, or how much he'll lend his campaign if he makes it to the general. Howe did get an endorsement from the NRA last week, which should be an asset in the primary.
Democrats are excited about their candidate, former health care executive Angie Craig. Craig raised $468,000 over the last three months, more than her would-be GOP rivals put together, and she loaned her campaign an additional $200,000. Craig has $1.8 million on-hand, far more than all of the Republicans; Craig also doesn't need to spend any of it on a primary. National Democrats have also made huge fall TV reservations here. Democrats will be cheering for the radioactive Lewis to advance next month, but Team Blue has a good chance to finally flip this seat regardless.
● TN-08: Ex-U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, one of the many Republicans competing in the Aug. 4 primary, is out with a new TV spot. Imagines of the aftermath of terrorist attacks and Hillary Clinton campaigning with Barack Obama flash by, as the narrator insists that "[a]s the world descends into chaos and lawlessness and corrupt politicians play by their own rules, we need a leader in Washington who believes in law and order." Kustoff then stresses his record as a U.S. attorney and brags that he sent state Sen. John Ford to prison.
● UT-04: It took her a while, but vulnerable freshman Republican Rep. Mia Love has released an internal poll showing that she's leading, not trailing, her Democratic opponent, attorney Doug Owens. Love's survey comes from Y2 Analytics, a firm we've only encountered once before (more on that in a second), and it finds the congresswoman beating her challenger 51-36. That's in sharp contrast to a SurveyUSA poll from early June that put Owens ahead 51-45.
But there are two things we want to point out. First, the presidential results from Love's poll are very strange: Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton 29-27, while Libertarian Gary Johnson takes an enormous 26 percent of the vote. While Johnson has done better in Utah than elsewhere thanks, in all likelihood, to Trump's unpopularity with Mormons, we've never seen him capturing anywhere near a quarter of the electorate. And second, the one prior Y2 poll we've seen came from Love herself back in October of 2014, and it gave her a 47-28 lead on Owens. Love won by a surprisingly small 51-46 margin, so Y2 was very wide of the mark.
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.