● FL-Sen: The long-awaited air wars in Florida's ridiculously late Democratic Senate primary are finally beginning—and this being Florida, they're of course getting off to a weird start … some 700 miles away. The NRSC is running a minute-long spot on cable TV, backed by a small $45,000 buy, highlighting a recent CBS Miami report that sought to pick apart Rep. Patrick Murphy's claims about his biography. The most bizarre thing about the ad is not the clip of someone trying to flush a smartphone down a toilet at the 41-second mark but rather the fact that it's airing in Washington, DC. Politico says that the GOP's move is designed to "sow doubt among donors and operatives about whether Murphy is worth their investment" and increase the chances that Rep. Alan Grayson, whom Team Red would rather face in November, will win the Democratic primary.
But most donors don't live in the District, and more to the point, what Democratic operatives are seriously going to be swayed by a Republican ad? This sort of ratfucking might work with voters, especially those who don't pay attention to (or don't care about) the disclosure lines at the end of advertisements, but the DSCC and Senate Majority PAC aren't going to fall for this most feeble of Jedi mind tricks. Indeed, both groups say they have "no plans to drop some $20 million in television reservations for the state." So, nice try?
The far more effective ads, of course, are going to be those that actually air in the Sunshine State, where polls have consistently showed a plurality of Democratic primary voters are still undecided. Murphy, however, has a huge cash advantage—$5.6 million versus $430,000 at the end of March—and he's putting it to work. Grayson is moving forward with a "six-figure" buy that was supposed to begin Thursday, according to Politico, but no ad appears to have surfaced yet. Murphy, by contrast, has reportedly booked $1.7 million in TV time for the final four weeks of the campaign leading up to the Aug. 30 primary. Even if Grayson devotes every last cent he has to advertising, Murphy will far outspend him.
The GOP primary, by contrast, isn't looking very exciting, despite our early hopes for hijinks. A new poll, this one from TelOpinion Research for the Associated Industries of Florida (a state affiliate of the reactionary National Association of Manufacturers), finds Sen. Marco Rubio crushing wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff 71-7. That's the fourth survey in a row with Rubio over 50 percent and Beruff down in the dumps. Yes, Beruff has supposedly said he's ready to shell out many of his millions, but he has just two months to make a very difficult case to Republican voters.
● OH-Sen: The NRA is out with a new ad attacking Democratic ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, but unless you're paying close attention, you wouldn't even necessarily know the NRA had produced this spot. A narrator rather implausibly charges that Strickland is hungry for both "power" and "money," claiming that when he "wanted power," he "traded on our name to help anti-gun John Kerry." But who does the "our" refer to? A couple of small NRA logos appear on screen, but they're easy to miss.
The ad goes on argue Strickland later "needed money" and therefore "sold out" to a "radical anti-gun group"—the Center for American Progress, which is about as mainstream a Democratic organization as you can get. It doesn't seem like a very effective spot, though it's backed by a fairly sizable $765,000 buy.
● Senate: On behalf of the group Women's Voices, Women Vote, Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner has a bunch of new data on nine different swing states, most of which also include Senate matchups. Some of the results, though, are kinda odd. Below, we've compared the net margin for both the presidential and Senate matchups with the averages in each race from Huffington Post Pollster, where available:
|Senate (D) Margin
As you can see, the numbers are a bit all over the place. Compared to the polling averages, GQR is bearish on Hillary Clinton in three states and bullish in three others, particularly their wildly optimistic read in North Carolina. As a consequence, GQR is the first pollster anywhere to find Democrat Deborah Ross beating GOP Sen. Richard Burr in the Tarheel State.
Most of the rest of their Senate tests are likewise pretty positive for Democrats, but some don't make much sense. For instance, they give Clinton a much bigger-than-normal 9-point lead in Pennsylvania but at the same time they have Democrat Katie McGinty trailing Republican Sen. Pat Toomey by a larger-than-average 8-point deficit. It's hard to square those two things. Same with Wisconsin, where Clinton is up a hefty 12 points but somehow Democrat Russ Feingold only edges GOP Sen. Ron Johnson by 1 point; no one else has seen the race that close all year.
GQR did provide the first Nevada polling we've seen from a company not named Gravis in almost a year. In fact, these are the first presidential numbers whatsoever out of the Silver State since a PPP poll from July of last year that put Clinton up 48-42 on Donald Trump. (Gravis only ever tested the Senate race.) GQR's 44-44 tie seems awfully pessimistic for Democrats, especially when you consider a recent DCCC poll of the state's swingy 3rd Congressional District that put Clinton up 43-35—numbers Republicans didn't try to dispute. Republican Rep. Joe Heck's 46-41 lead on former Democratic state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is therefore likely overstated as well; a year ago, for what it's worth, PPP found Cortez Masto ahead 42-41.
● NC-Gov: The Institute for Faith and Family is up with two TV spots, and as you can probably guess from their name, they're defending HB2, North Carolina's notorious anti-LGBT law.
The first commercial features a woman saying that she fears for her safety if women need to use the same restroom as men, and then implores Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, to defend the law. The second spot features a different woman, who identifies herself as a victim of sexual abuse, arguing that Cooper is "letting sexual predators have exactly what they want: A way into bathrooms with women and children," before she tells him to "do your job and protect us." The group says this is a "substantial" buy focused in the Greensboro market.
● FL-07: It looks like the DCCC really believes that former Defense Department official Stephanie Murphy, the committee's last-minute recruit in Florida's redrawn 7th Congressional District, can upset veteran GOP Rep. John Mica. Just days after the D-Trip added Murphy to its Red to Blue program highlighting top candidates, it's now reportedly reserved a hefty $3 million in fall TV air time to support her efforts. Further details, if any, are locked behind Politico's paywall, but one thing we do know is that there are no other competitive House races in the Orlando media market, where this seat is located. That means that unless this reservation is cancelled, it's earmarked entirely for Murphy.
Murphy, a first-time candidate, still has plenty to prove, and we'll be waiting to see how well she was able to fundraise in the one week she had between her campaign kickoff and the end of the second quarter. But there's no question that this race now belongs on the big board, so we're upgrading it from Safe Republican to Likely Republican—and it could get even more competitive from here.
● MI-10: Self-funding businessman Paul Mitchell is out with yet another TV spot ahead of the Aug. 2 primary for this safely red seat. The narrator starts by praising America as a "land of opportunity, a land of progress," before insisting that "liberals like Barack Obama have hijacked our American dream, and we can't afford their destructive policies." The commercial then argues that as a conservative outsider, Mitchell "can give Washington the overhaul it needs." Mitchell, who only moved to the Detroit area just before he started up his campaign, faces state Sen. Phil Pavlov, state Rep. Tony Forlini, and ex-state Sen. Alan Sanborn, and so far, Mitchell's had the airwaves to himself.
● PA-02: As expected, Gov. Tom Wolf has called the special election to fill the remainder of ex-Rep. Chaka Fattah's term to coincide with the regular November general election. Fattah, who recently resigned after a conviction on corruption charges, had been defeated in the Democratic primary in April by state Rep. Dwight Evans, so he wasn't coming back next year anyway. Now Evans, who was already guaranteed to succeed Fattah in this dark blue Philadelphia district, will be a lock for the special as well, which will give him a couple of months of extra seniority on the other freshmen members of the 115th Congress.
● TN-04: It sure sounds like Grant Starrett wants to lose. The attorney and former Mitt Romney campaign official just declared that he will not attack Rep. Scott DesJarlais, whom he's challenging in the Aug. 4 GOP primary, on "personal issues" and will instead focus on "policy differences." DesJarlais, of course, carries more baggage than almost any other member of Congress, thanks to his infamous affair with one of his patients whom he later tried to pressure into having an abortion.
And that scandal prompted state Sen. Jim Tracy to try and unseat DesJarlais in the primary last cycle, too. But Tracy, like Starrett, all but refused to make DesJarlais' revolting behavior a campaign issue, allowing the once-doomed incumbent to escape with an extraordinary 38-vote margin. While the passage of time might arguably help DesJarlais' ugly past to fade in voters' minds, it's never been fully litigated before the electorate. And we've recently seen at least one other sex scandal successfully resurrected to destroy another politician: Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who got utterly punished in his once high-flying bid for governor last year.
So by taking "personal issues" off the table, Starrett is depriving himself of the one strong argument he really has to convince voters that they ought to fire DesJarlais. Thanks in part to self-funding, Starrett had a huge $909,000 to $346,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of March. However, multiple well-funded primary challengers have already badly lost this cycle after they failed to effectively attack the incumbent they were trying to beat. Unless he changes his mind about his strategy in the remaining month, it looks like Starrett will join that group, too.
● TN-06: Rep. Diane Black is out with her first TV ad ahead of the Aug. 4 GOP primary. Black tells an audience that she's fought to protect the borders, before the narrator says she's the "sponsor of the law to stop refugees from Syria and Iraq." And yes, the ad outright praises Black for keeping "refugees" out of America; it doesn't even try to frame Black as trying to keep "terrorists" out, just refugees. Black faces a primary challenge from ex-state Rep. Joe Carr in this safely red Middle Tennessee seat.
● WA-08: On Thursday evening, former Seattle TV sports anchor Tony Ventrella ended his campaign against GOP Rep. Dave Reichert. While Obama narrowly carried this seat, Ventrella was always a longshot. Ventrella notably refused to do any serious fundraising, which hobbled his campaign right out of the gate. Still, Ventrella did have name-recognition from his long broadcasting career, which is more than either of the two remaining Democrats can say. The candidate-filing deadline has already passed, and unless one of Reichert's remaining foes demonstrates some surprising financial strength in their second quarter fundraising report, this is probably the last we'll hear about this seat this cycle.
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.