● Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide drops by Kansas, which is now the 49th state we've calculated. We're waiting for North Carolina to assign most of its absentee votes to precincts, which they told us last week should be done "in the next few days." You can find our complete data set here, which we'll update … well, when North Carolina comes in.
Donald Trump carried Kansas 57-36, which on the surface looks pretty similar to Mitt Romney's 60-38 win in 2012. However, there was one very noteworthy difference: Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the 3rd District, located in suburban Kansas City, by a 47-46 margin, a huge swing from Romney's 54-44 win here. Correctly anticipating that this district would be particularly hostile to Trump, national Democrats launched an expensive ad campaign late in the cycle against GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder, aka that congressman who took a nude swim in the Sea of Galilee. However, Yoder still prevailed over Democrat Jay Sidie 51-41, though that was a darn sight better for Team Blue than 2014, when Yoder won 60-40, and Clinton's close win here means the incumbent can't rest easy in 2018.
Kansas' other three seats, meanwhile, decisively went for Trump. The Topeka-area 2nd District may be vacant soon, since GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins is considering running for governor next year. However, this district went from 56-42 Romney to 56-37 Trump, so it's unlikely to be much of a Democratic target. Trump has nominated 4th District GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo to serve as head of the CIA, and if Pompeo is confirmed, there will be a special election to replace him in this Wichita seat. The 4th backed Trump 60-33, a larger margin of victory than Romney's 60-38 win, so the special won't be exciting. Finally, the rural western 1st District was little changed, going from 70-28 Romney to 69-24 Trump.
We also have two pieces of housekeeping for the Sunflower State. Mystifyingly, the secretary of state's office still hasn't posted official county-level election results online, even though every other state in the union has. The state finally sent us the results by email after multiple official requests, so we've posted them here for everyone to access, since Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach is obviously too busy chasing voter fraud ghosts to do his actual job.
The second thing to address are the results of tiny Pawnee County, which is divided between the 1st and 4th Districts. Daily Kos Elections always relies on official precinct-level results for split counties, but Pawnee has repeatedly insisted they don't have their own election results (apparently, Pawnee placed Andy Dwyer in charge back in November), while the secretary of state has not sent them to us despite our requests.
Ninety-five percent of Pawnee (pop.: 6,971) is contained within the 1st District, and that section makes up just 0.93 percent of the total population in that district. Rather than let one very small county hold up the entire state possibly forever, we've simply assigned 95 percent of Pawnee's votes to the 1st District and the balance to the 4th. (This is, in fact, more or less how we treat split precincts.) If and when we get Pawnee's official precinct results, we'll update our numbers and announce them in the Digest, but no matter what, very little will change in either the 1st or 4th Districts.
● CO-Gov: Ex-Sen. Ken Salazar has been mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate many times, but he hasn't said much about what he's thinking. But late last year, Fox 31 asked Salazar about his 2018 plans and he gave an unhelpful, "Right now I am taking care of my family and spending a lot of time in the San Luis Valley and that's where I got to be." That's exactly the type of thing politicians say when they're thinking about running for office but don't want to appear over-eager.
● IA-Gov, IA-01: On Tuesday, Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis announced that she would not run for governor next year. Iowa Starting Line, which broke the news, said that Mathis had taken meetings with the Democratic Governor's Association and EMILY's List, and that local Republicans ran ads against her during her successful 2016 re-election campaign to try and weaken her ahead of her possible statewide bid. Mathis suggested that state Sen. Janet Petersen would be a good candidate, though Mathis admitted that she doesn't "know what she thinks about that, but she's tenacious," and also said that she doesn't plan to support anyone during the primary. This is the first time we've heard Petersen mentioned as a possible contender.
So far, ex-Department of Natural Resources head Rich Leopold is the only Democrat to kick off a bid against Republican Kim Reynolds, who will become governor assuming current Gov. Terry Branstad is confirmed as ambassador to China. However, Starting Line reports that outgoing state Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire is planning to jump in soon, and that she's "expected to have a few million dollars already lined up." Starting Line also says that state Rep. Todd Prichard is "sounding like he's likely to run" though we haven't heard him express interest yet. State Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg also recently said he "has no plans" to run, which isn't a no.
However, it's possible we may see Mathis on the 2018 ballot anyway. Mathis didn't rule out a bid against 1st District GOP Rep. Rod Blum, only saying that, "Who knows what happens." Blum won re-election last year 54-46 as Donald Trump was carrying his eastern Iowa seat 49-45.
● NV-Gov, NV-Sen: Though there's no actual quote from the candidate, columnist Steve Sebelius says that wealthy hotel CEO Steve Cloobeck told him he's going to run for governor and will "seed" his campaign with $5 million of his own money, though he didn't say when he'd actually enter the race. He did, however, describe himself as "purple," which apparently refers to his political leanings. For us, though, that just makes us think of Ronald McDonald's friend Grimace, which is exactly what you'll feel like doing when you learn that Cloobeck wants to hire Republican Frank Luntz, who plays a pollster on TV, to work on his campaign.
Cloobeck was also the only Democrat, purple or otherwise, who we heard was at all interested in challenging Sen. Dean Heller, one of the very few vulnerable GOP senators up in 2018. We could play Great Mentioner and easily come up with plenty of Silver State Democrats who could conceivably face Heller, but any potential candidates are keeping their interest very quiet right now. The Democratic firm The Mellman Group, polling on behalf of Jon Ralston's new non-partisan news site The Nevada Independent, gave Heller an underwater 29-40 approval rating, so the senator hardly seems unbeatable.
● TN-Gov: GOP Rep. Diane Black, who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has reportedly been considering a 2018 gubernatorial bid for a while. Until now, Black hasn't said much publicly about her plans, but she recently told the local ABC affiliate WKRN that she's "had a lot of encouragement to consider running for governor." Black went on to talk about her goals in Congress, saying that she has plenty of time to decide on what she'll do in 2018.
● VA-Gov: Fundraising reports for statewide candidates in Virginia, which hosts several key elections this year, were due on Tuesday, giving us our first look at the finances of the leading candidates in quite some time. The new filings cover the entire second half of 2016, during which Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam led the field. Northam and his allied PAC combined to raise $1.6 million from July 1 through Dec. 31 of last year and together have $2.5 million on hand.
Meanwhile, the top Republican in the race, former RNC chief Ed Gillespie, pulled in $1.5 million along with his PAC and has just under $2 million in the bank. These sums were, however, compiled in very different ways. Grotesquely, Virginia has absolutely no limits on campaign contributions, and Gillespie took full advantage: His campaign took in monetary donations from just 532 donors (including a $1.1 million transfer from his PAC). Northam's campaign, by contrast, received 5,828 separate contributions during the same timeframe—over 10 times as many. That kind of grassroots support can make a big difference, especially when it comes time to mobilize volunteers on the ground.
As for the three other Republicans running, they raised much less money. Corey Stewart, the chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, brought in $505,000, but $378,000 of that was transferred from his supervisor campaign account, meaning only $127,000 came from new donations; he has $402,000 left. State Sen. Frank Wagner reported raising $451,000, but similarly, $200,000 was from his Senate fund, so he really only took in $251,000 in new money and now has $372,000 on hand. Finally, distillery owner Denver Riggleman, who got in late last year, has under $30,000 in the bank.
As for Democratic ex-Rep. Tom Perriello, he only joined the contest earlier this month, so it'll be some time before we get a handle of his fundraising abilities.
● CA-34: Latino Decisions, which is best known for its national polls of Latino public opinion, has taken a dive into California's majority-Hispanic (and dark blue) 34th Congressional District, which will soon host a special election. Latino Decisions says they conducted the poll independently, but before getting to the horserace, they asked a battery of questions about electoral politics, including whether respondents would prefer "a career politician who is endorsed by the political establishment," and if they think Bernie Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump.
Best practices for pollsters, however, dictate that you only ask questions like this after you solicit voters' views on election matchups, because you risk "priming" respondents on other topics, thereby clouding their later answers. It's possible that something like that happened here. Several of Latino Decisions' questions either directly reference Sanders (would you prefer "someone who worked alongside Bernie Sanders in the primary"?) or echo themes he ran on during last year's presidential primary (do you agree that "the Democratic Party establishment has too much control over its nominees"?).
On almost all of these questions, the Sanders point of view carried more support, and that's worth flagging because the survey twice refers to one of the candidates in the race, Democrat Arturo Carmona, as a staffer for Sanders. That might explain why, on the 25th question of the poll, Carmona, who has never held or run for office before, leads the way. Here's how the numbers break down, with the poll's description of the four candidates Latino Decisions thinks are "somewhat better positioned" in parentheses:
Arturo Carmona: 30 ("former Bernie Sanders campaign deputy")
Jimmy Gomez: 19 ("state Assemblyman")
Sara Hernandez: 9 ("former city council aide")
Yolie Flores: 8 ("former LAUSD board member")
While Gomez, the only current elected official in the race, isn't especially well-known, it's still surprising to see Carmona so far out in front. We don't have any other polls we can directly compare this one to, but an early PPP survey that tested a hypothetical field that ultimately didn't pan out found Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar, a prominent politician who's been in office for over a decade, led the way in a multi-candidate matchup with just 22 percent.
It's certainly possible this poll is on-target, but it's also possible that respondents' positive associations with Sanders helped give Carmona a boost. Latino Decisions explained the focus of its survey by saying they were trying to get a read on the "national mood," and it may be that running as a political outsider in the Sanders mold would be a winning message for Carmona. But it will still be up to him to raise enough money and get enough support to spread that message, and it will also be on him to withstand any attacks from other Democratic contenders.
This race still has a long way to go, and new candidates keep joining, so it's very much in flux, and it'll change even more once campaigns are fully engaged. But to get the most accurate view of the contest, pollsters who investigate it in the future should ask about the horserace right at the start and save topical questions for the back half of their surveys. It's also worth noting that, if no one takes a majority in the first round of the special election, there will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters, so we'll want to get a look at potential second-round scenarios, too.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.