● FL-Sen: Monmouth's new Florida poll is a study in contrasts. At the same time it offers Hillary Clinton some of the gaudiest numbers she's ever seen in the Sunshine State—a 48-39 lead on Donald Trump—it also finds Republican Sen. Marco Rubio running far ahead of the top of his ticket, with a 48-43 lead on Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy. It's easy to say which matchup is more believable, though. According to the latest Huffington Post Pollster averages, Rubio's up about 47-42 on Murphy, which is almost identical to Monmouth's margin. By way of contrast, Clinton's lead in the polling averages is just 46-42, much smaller than what Monmouth is seeing.
It's weird to see the same poll stick with the consensus on one race but diverge widely from it another, but Florida polling during the month of August has been all over the place. Half a dozen pollsters have tested both contests this month, and some (specifically PPP, Opinion Savvy, and Quinnipiac) have shown a relatively tight gap between Clinton's margin over Trump and Rubio's margin over Murphy. Others show Clinton doing much better than Murphy: Marist, Suffolk, and, of course, Monmouth.
The picture becomes even murkier when you look at the three firms that have gone into the field more than once since talk of a Rubio re-election bid began heating up in June. PPP has seen a small gap between the two Democrats both times it's polled, while Marist has seen a much bigger one in two times it's conducted surveys. Quinnipiac, on the other hand, went from seeing a large difference between Clinton and Murphy's performance in July to a much narrower one in August, but they also switched their screen from registered voters to likely voters, making comparisons between the two polls difficult.
So where does that leave us? We probably won't get a more accurate read until the Senate race is more fully formed. Murphy has a primary to contend with on Aug. 30, and even if he wins, his name recognition will still trail Rubio's until he can begin advertising in earnest for the general election. The good news for Team Blue is that, according to this Monmouth poll, Murphy is little known rather than disliked: The Democrat posts a 22-10 favorable rating, with 68 percent expressing no opinion. Unfortunately, Marist and Suffolk, the two other pollsters that showed Murphy lagging noticeably behind Clinton, did not release numbers on how voters view Murphy statewide.
But right now, whichever poll you look at, Rubio's doing a yeoman's job of staying afloat while Trump does his best to drag him down to where the manatees wander. Indeed, Monmouth gives him a positive 40-33 rating, far better than Trump's toxic 33-54 score. That effort, though, is only going to get harder, not easier, once the Democrats' big guns start training their fire on Rubio.
● IN-Sen: Next month, George W. Bush, a noted Dallas-based painter, will host a fundraiser for Republican Todd Young. Bush has also helped several other Senate Republican candidates raise cash. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports Young is re-airing a spot he originally ran in the primary with some minor changes. Young, a retired Marine, tells the audience that he understands national security and is against abortion.
● MO-Sen, NC-Sen: Last week, we noted that the conservative group One Nation was launching new ads in Missouri and North Carolina. We already knew the Missouri buy was for $1 million, and The Hill says the new spot is running in the Tar Heel State for $1.5 million. In Missouri, an oncologist identified as "Charles L. Bane" bemoans proposed changes to Medicare that he says could "reduce access to patients undergoing cancer therapy." The narrator then praises Republican Sen. Roy Blunt for fighting to stop changes and advocating for more money to help seniors.
In North Carolina, Bane also appears and makes a similar argument, before the narrator makes a similar case for GOP Sen. Richard Burr. Bane also appeared in a One Nation ad in Ohio in June: In fact, the Bane footage from the Missouri commercial is from their Ohio spot.
● NH-Sen: Two weeks ago, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and the NRSC engaged in a familiar dance. The NRSC launched a commercial arguing that Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan was badly handling New Hampshire's heroin crisis. Ayotte played good cop and asked the committee to yank the ad, knowing full well that there was no danger that they actually would. The NRSC is now continuing their bad cop role and launching two more commercials against Hassan that once again attack her over the heroin epidemic.
Their first spot features a peer recovery counselor blasting Hassan for vetoing a state budget, arguing that the "cost of the entrenchment and bureaucracy is 429 people dying a year. That's the cost." The second ad has another peer recovery counselor saying the governor "could have done more." He doesn't go into detail, though the commercial displays some text with news headlines saying that Hassan's administration was caught unaware by the crisis, and that her drug czar "resigned in controversy." The commercials are part of the NRSC's overall $6 million ad campaign in the state. Meanwhile, Ayotte is out with her own ad where she strikes some bipartisan notes on various issues.
On the other side of the aisle, Senate Majority PAC's commercial says that Ayotte is choosing millionaires over Medicare. End Citizens United has also launched a $1.4 million TV buy that will last for the rest of the month. Their spot makes a similar argument against Ayotte, though it does it in a much more memorable way.
End Citizens United features a fictional town hall meeting where a woman stands up and tells "Ayotte" that Medicare needs to stay the way it is. However, the camera then pans to a man in a suit, as the onscreen text says, "Insurance Industry: Donated $585,216": The guy shakes his head no. The process repeats itself when another woman calls for ending big oil tax breaks. When a man stands up and declares, "You vote for the things the Koch brothers want. Aren't you supposed to work for us?", the well-dressed special interest representatives let loose an evil laugh.
● NV-Sen: Two groups are launching ad buys for Team Blue in Nevada's Senate race. End Citizens United is out with the first of what they say will be two ads from a $1.5 million TV campaign that will last until Sept. 2. Their commercial shows a rapidly growing pile of money, as the narrator describes the various special interests that have donated to Republican Joe Heck. Senate Majority PAC is also out with a spot that Jon Ralston says is running for $670,000. Their commercial argues that Heck and his wealthy allies want to privatize Social Security.
Heck himself is going up with a positive ad that the Las Vegas Sun's Megan Messerly says is running for an amount between $425,000 and $450,000. Heck notes his medical background and says his father depended in Medicare for an emergency surgery, and he pledges to protect the program.
● MO-Gov: Republican Eric Greitens is out with his first general election spot, and like every single one of his primary ads, he emphasizes his military background. However, instead of blowing up an unseen target or firing a machine gun for 20 seconds, Greitens instead talks about his non-profit work for veterans.
● VT-Gov: Unsurprisingly, the Aug. 9 primary left both Republican Phil Scott and Democrat Sue Minter without much money at the beginning of the general election. Scott has just $158,000 on-hand, which is still better than Minter's $54,000. Minter has outraised Scott $1 million to $869,000 during the entire campaign, so she may be able to catch up quickly. While Vermont is a safely Democratic state in federal races, it's amenable to Republican governors, and this contest starts out as a Tossup.
● AZ-01: Last week, state House Speaker David Gowan dropped his bid for the GOP nomination and threw his support behind rich guy Gary Kiehne. Gowan also implored the other GOP candidates to do the same thing in order to stop Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu from winning the Aug. 30 primary, arguing that "[i]t will be nothing to brag about to your grandkids how one time you finished third in a primary for Congress."
However, neither ex-Secretary of State Ken Bennett nor 2014 9th District nominee Wendy Rogers are following Gowan's lead. In fact, Bennett just earned an endorsement from Jon Kyl, who left the Senate in 2013. Kyl supported eventual winner Doug Ducey over Bennett in the 2014 gubernatorial primary, so he was no automatic get for Bennett. The winner will face Democrat Tom O'Halleran, a former GOP state legislator, in this swingy seat.
● AZ-02: A little while ago, freshman GOP Rep. Martha McSally began a $350,000 ad campaign for the Olympics. In her first commercial, McSally tells the audience that her father suddenly died when she was 12, and she learned that "every single day is a gift." McSally goes on to say that in DC, she's tried to fix things rather than accept the status quo. McSally will learn the identity of her Democratic rival at the end of the month; the DCCC is rooting for ex-state Rep. Matt Heinz over Victoria Steele, a former legislator who has had problems raising money.
● AZ-05: We have two weeks to go before the four-way primary for this safely red seat, and two new polls show a tight race. On behalf of the group Arizona First, HighGround Public Affairs Consultants gives state Senate President Andy Biggs a tiny 22-20 edge over ex-GoDaddy counsel Christine Jones; ex-Maricopa County Commissioner Don Stapley takes 17, while state Rep. Justin Olson is at 14.
Arizona First, which the polling memo identifies as a "not-for-profit educational organization," says it's not backing any candidate. However, the memo makes a point to note that a huge amount of outside spending is going into this contest, and that Biggs and Olsen have "backed efforts to reduce campaign finance regulations including weakening financial disclosure rules." Indeed, the anti-tax Club for Growth is supporting Biggs, and they've been airing commercials against Jones. For her part, Jones has been self-funding her bid, while no major outside groups have come to Stapley or Olsen's aid.
Stapley's campaign is also out with a survey from Data Orbital. His poll shows Jones edging him 22-19, with Biggs also grabbing 19; Olsen, who has spent very little cash, lags behind at 14.
● DE-AL: Ex-state Labor Secretary Lisa Blunt Rochester is out with her second spot for the Sept. 13 Democratic primary. (Delaware makes up for being the first state to ratify the Constitution by being one of the last three states to hold a congressional primary.) The narrator praises Rochester's record on jobs, and pledges she'll do more in Congress. Rochester's primary foes, former gubernatorial aide Sean Barney and state Sen. Bryan Townsend, do not appear to have launched their TV campaigns yet.
● FL-18: With just a couple of weeks to go before Florida's Aug. 30 Democratic primary, the race between attorney Jonathan Chane and businessman Randy Perkins has turned negative. Perkins, a wealthy self-funder who has already put at least $3 million into his own campaign, has the formal backing of the DCCC, but Chane is blasting him with a TV ad that questions Perkins' Democratic credentials. Chane says that Perkins "has donated nearly $2 million to Republicans," including "many anti-choice extremists" and Florida Gov. Rick Scott. He then goes on to call himself a "life-long Democrat"; Perkins only joined the party shortly before announcing his bid for Congress.
Perkins is firing back with a spot of his own, hammering Chane for representing tobacco companies and for helping "13 Wall Street banks" when "the housing crisis hit," saying families were "forced out of their homes" thanks to foreclosure proceedings property values were "drive[n] down." Every line of attack used by both candidates was, incidentally, covered by an internal D-Trip memo on the race that was stolen and then leaked by Russian hackers.
There's no word on the size of either buy, but thanks to Perkins' considerable bank account, he has much more available cash than Chane. However, that same memo noted that Perkins only planned to spend $5 million on his bid, so he's already crossed the halfway mark and we haven't even reached the general. And while Perkins theoretically looks like the favorite, given his funding and institutional support, if he's attacking Chane, it at least means the Democratic nomination for this open swing seat is no sure thing.
● FL-19: The Republican pollster Remington Research is out with a survey of the Aug. 30 primary for this safely red seat. They give wealthy ex-Ambassador Francis Rooney a solid 45-29 lead over Chauncey Goss, the son of ex-Rep. Porter Goss; former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino grabs 15. Rooney has massively outspent both of his opponents, so these results look plausible. Remington also did very well in recent GOP primaries in Missouri and Wisconsin.
However, while the memo did not identify a client, the local blog Crowley Political Report points out that Remington may not be a disinterested party in this primary. Remington was founded by Jeff Roe, who also runs Axiom Strategies, a group that has received at least $60,000 for its services from Rooney's campaign this year.
● IA-01: Democrat Monica Vernon is out with her first general election ad in her race against Rod Blum, one of the most vulnerable House Republicans. Vernon talks about "childish bickering," and says that it not only describes Washington, it was also her house "while raising three daughters while starting a small business." Vernon then pledges to help families in Congress.
● MI-07: GOP Rep. Tim Walberg launched his TV campaign at the beginning of the month. In his first ad, Walberg says he "voted to improve and expand vocational opportunities" to help give everyone a chance to get a good job. Walberg faces Democratic state Rep. Gretchen Driskell in this 51-48 Romney seat in southern Michigan.
● NY-22: Wealthy independent Martin Babinec's last TV ad struck some very conservative notes, but this time, he's going with some bland talk about job creation instead. The spot is virtually substance-free and mostly features shots of Babinec grilling at his backyard barbecue. At the end, holding a steak in a pair of tongs, he says he's proud to "share my jobs plan—but not my secret recipe!" We're fine with that.
● WA-07: Rep. Adam Smith just became Washington's first member of Congress to pick sides in the race to replace retiring Rep. Jim McDermott this fall, endorsing state Sen. Pramila Jayapal in Washington's dark blue 7th District. Smith represents a neighboring seat, and as it happens, Jayapal is a constituent of his. As we've noted previously, most of Jayapal's state Senate district isn't actually contained in the 7th, but that didn't stop her from finishing in first place in this month's top-two primary with 42 percent. She faces state Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, a fellow Democrat who took 21 percent, in November.
● Fresno, CA Mayor: Fresno hasn't elected a Democratic mayor since the 1990s, and Team Blue is hoping that Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea will break the streak. A SurveyUSA poll finds a tight race here in November: They give Perea a 46-44 edge over GOP City Councilor Lee Brand in what is officially a non-partisan race.
● PA-AG: Our long commonwealth nightmare is over. On Monday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, was convicted on nine charges, including two perjury charges. Kane has announced she will resign on Wednesday, and her sentencing is set for October. Kane was already not running for re-election, and Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, will face Republican state Sen. John Rafferty in the fall.
Four years ago, Kane was a rising star in Pennsylvania Democratic politics. Kane, who was endorsed by Bill Clinton, defeated ex-Rep. Patrick Murphy in the 2012 primary. Kane led the Democratic ticket in the fall with her 56-42 win over Republican David Freed, and she became the first Democrat to be elected state attorney general. Within a year, she said she was "seriously considering" a 2016 Senate bid against Republican incumbent Pat Toomey. However, her electoral future effectively ended when a grand jury started looking into whether Kane had illegally leaked secret grand jury materials to harm a political rival before lying about it to investigators. Kane was indicted last year, and Monday's verdict was the final nail in the coffin.
● Site News: Heads up, everyone: On Wednesday—that is, today—we'll be rolling out the first phase of our relaunch of Daily Kos Elections! If you haven't read about it before, you can learn all about what's in store in this sneak preview. We're incredibly excited to share this awesome new experience with the entire community. So please be sure to visit us at elections.dailykos.com to check it all out!
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.