● GA-06: Could it really happen? A new report in Politico says that Republicans are now worried that Democrat Jon Ossoff could win the special election for Georgia's 6th Congressional District outright on April 18, by taking a majority of the vote and averting a runoff. In fact, even NRCC chair Steve Stivers acknowledges there's a problem, saying "[W]e know that Ossoff is real." Just how real? With less than three weeks left, the NRCC is set to begin an independent expenditure operation to try to hold Ossoff below 50 percent, though Stivers declined to say how much the committee would spend.
It had better be a lot, though: The same piece reports that Ossoff's fundraising haul is now up to a gargantuan $4 million, thanks to massive enthusiasm from progressive small-dollar donors. And while Stivers is, of course, speaking in reassuring tones, other Republicans are not so sure. One GOP operative quoted on the record by Politico, Tom Rehm, says, "The anxiety level is increasing, and it's creeping higher every day." Another, Jim Kingston (the son of former Rep. Jack Kingston) adds that "the fear is definitely out there" that Ossoff will seal it up in the first round.
And what does Ossoff say? For the first time, his campaign appears to be publicly allowing the possibility that it could be one-and-done. Ossoff campaign manager Keenan Pontoni told Politico, "If we're going into Game 6 in a best of 7 series, you wouldn't slow-play Game 6 because you know you have Game 7. We want to win Game 6." That's an aggressive stance, but if there's a chance, Democrats have to take it.
The question is, how realistic is that chance? There have been two recent surveys of the race, one from independent pollster OpinionSavvy, the other from Republican pollster Clout Research (which had a very poor track record under its old name, Wenzel Strategies). However, both had similar results: OpinionSavvy put Ossoff at 40 percent while Clout had him at 41.
In both cases, Ossoff was well out in front of all other candidates, but it's a long way to get from 40 to 50, especially in a district as traditionally Republican as this one. One analyst, the New York Times' Nate Cohn, has suggested that the early voting data looks positive for Ossoff, but we all remember what the early vote supposedly told us about last November's elections, so it would be wise not to get excited by this data.
However, one thing working in Ossoff's favor is the badly fractured Republican field. In a straight D-vs.-R race, it might be easier for the GOP to rally around a single standard-bearer. Instead, though, there are at least four or five plausible options in the running, so there's no one obvious choice with an (R) after his or her name for less plugged-in Republican voters to naturally coalesce around.
And that situation could get worse rather than better. Earlier this week, the Club for Growth launched a $250,000 round of ads attacking former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who's the nominal Republican frontrunner just by virtue of her higher name recognition. Now Handel has responded with a rather defensive-sounding spot in which she complains about the "gimmicks" her opponents have used in their own ads as a bunch of old-school CRT TVs loaded into the back of a pickup truck situated in a random field (because that's totally normal) play clips of them. (Also, how are those TVs plugged in?)
There's no word on the size of the buy, but Handel and all of her fellow Republicans face a serious conundrum: They're going to try to tear each other down in order to be the one who winds up in second place—for a runoff that might not even happen. So while Stivers while try his level best to keep Ossoff from securing a first-round knockout, he won't be getting any help from any of the GOP candidates, who will only be focused on their own fates. That's not a pleasant situation for any party to find itself in.
Of course, this could all be a Republican effort to try to up the expectations for Ossoff: If a runoff does ensue, which is still the most likely outcome, they'll claim he somehow underperformed. That would be bunk, of course, but that's typical politics. However, if the NRCC does actually shell out cash here before April 18, we'll know they weren't just playing games.
● ME-Sen: Independent Sen. Angus King doesn't typically top the list of most vulnerable members of the Democratic caucus, but Hillary Clinton's soft 48-45 victory in Maine means he might not be able to rest easy. Few Republicans are itching to challenge King, but state Sen. Eric Brakey recently formed an exploratory committee ahead of a potential campaign. Brakey, who hails from the GOP's Ron Paul wing, did not reveal when he might reach a decision about running.
The only other Republican openly considering running is Gov. Paul LePage. However, there's a good chance that the governor isn't that serious about it, given his history of making similar claims about running for races without following through on them.
● NV-Sen: Despite Sen. Dean Heller being the only Republican up in 2018 whose state voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, the Democratic field has been slow to develop. However, we can add one more name to the list: Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson says he's been encouraged to challenge Heller, and he didn't rule anything out. Clark County is home to Las Vegas and over 70 percent of the state's population, which could give Wolfson a good geographic base against Heller if he does run. Few other Democrats have gone on the record about their intentions, but Rep. Dina Titus has previously said she was considering the race.
● WI-Sen: Catholic school administrator Nicole Schneider joins the growing list of Republicans considering a campaign against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, saying she and her family are "examining options." Schneider appears to be very wealthy and could possibly self-fund a substantial amount, but it's unclear if the would-be first-time candidate has the chops to run a serious race.
Several other Republicans are also openly mulling running, including state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, businessman Kevin Nicholson, and rich guy Eric Hovde, who lost the primary for this seat in 2012. Nicholson hasn't formally announced yet, but Republican mega-donor Richard Uihlein has already plopped down $2 million for a super PAC to support him if he does run.
● IA-Gov: Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry, who was one of the most prominent Bernie Sanders supporters in Iowa last year, has confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that he's considering a bid for governor in 2018. Two Democrats are already running, while many more are looking at the race. You can get a complete rundown of the field in our recent recap of all the players.
● ME-Gov: No Democrats have entered the race yet to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Paul LePage in 2018, but many potential candidates are thinking about doing so. Businessman Adam Cote tells Politico that he has had talks with the DGA, but he hasn't decided whether to run yet and didn't give a timetable for when he might do so. Cote has never held elective office before, but he previously was the runner-up in the 2008 primary against now-Rep. Chellie Pingree for Maine's 1st Congressional District.
Other Democrats who have said they're considering a gubernatorial bid include: state Attorney General Janet Mills; state Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond; Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap; car dealer Adam Lee; and construction company owner and former state Senate candidate Jonathan Fulford.
● NY-Gov: Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014, isn't ruling out a rematch, saying he'll "let that play itself out next year." That's a pretty lackadaisical approach for a Republican running in a state as blue as New York, though. While Cuomo hasn't formally announced that he'll seek a third term, he has an enormous $22 million war chest, and he used a comparable financial advantage to hold off Astorino by a 54-40 margin. And while Republicans have little hope of flipping the governor's mansion, several are nonetheless contemplating bids, so if Astorino isn't exactly positioning himself well if he wants to take another shot.
● MT-AL: Wealthy Republican businessman Greg Gianforte just announced that he's brought in $1.5 million for the May 25 special election for Montana's at-large House seat, double the amount raised by his Democratic opponent, musician Rob Quist. However, from press reports, it's not clear whether Gianforte, who gave $6 million to his own unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign last year, has once again done any self-funding. The campaign's first-quarter fundraising reports are not due at the FEC until April 15.
● Census: There was a noteworthy little kerfuffle on Tuesday that mostly only devoted Census-watchers saw, but that has a big impact on who we count and how that impacts public policy. There was a report issued on Tuesday that mentioned, deep in the fine print, that the Census Bureau was planning to start asking about LGBT status in the 2020 Census and American Community Survey. After several hours, that line mysteriously disappeared from the online report, leaving observers to wonder if that had suddenly been nixed by higher-ups within the Trump administration. The Census director, John Thompson, subsequently wrote that the line had been included "in error," which certainly still leaves a lot of question marks.
Inclusion of LGBT status would indeed be surprising in the 2020 count; the 2010 count asked essentially the bare minimum needed for reapportionment and redistricting (total population plus race and Hispanic status). It would fit seamlessly and easily enough within the American Community Survey, though (an ongoing random sample that replaces the once-a-decade long form), which already asks a similar question (number of households headed by same-sex partners) but, nevertheless, one that disregards LGBT persons not in a formally-recognized relationship.
For what it's worth, though, the data from the 2011-16 ACS shows that the counties that have the highest levels of same-sex partner households are, in fact, the places that you'd expect anyway, as centers of LGBT culture. While the absolute highest percentage is in rural Mason County, Texas (population 4,000), if you limit it to more populous counties where sample size issues aren't likely to create anomalies, the top five are San Francisco, CA; Washington, DC; Monroe Co., FL (Key West); New York Co., NY (Manhattan); and Hampshire Co., MA (Northampton).
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.