The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.
● CO-Gov: Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, an anti-immigrant zealot who's always pissed about something, is pissed about the fact that a resort in Colorado Springs cancelled a booking for conference that had been scheduled by VDARE, a notorious white supremacist group. In particular, he's angry that Republicans haven't spoken out on this incident "in defense of free speech" (eyeroll), and even though his name hadn't cropped up as a potential candidate once all year, he now says "it won't take much" to get him to run for governor. However, Tancredo later told The Denver Post that while he's thought about returning to politics, "periodically I'd take a cold shower and rethink it," so maybe it will take more to get him to run for governor.
Tancredo's past two gubernatorial bids both ended with him getting a cold shower from reality. In 2010, Tancredo quit the GOP to run under the banner of the American Constitution Party and managed to come in second place—but a distant 15 points behind the victor, Democrat John Hickenlooper, who won 51-36.
Tancredo did almost manage one impressive accomplishment, though: He nearly relegated the Colorado GOP to "minor party" status because the actual Republican nominee, Dan Maes, was so feeble that he just barely avoided falling below the 10 percent threshold that would have kicked the GOP down to the second tier.
Tancredo ran again in 2014, this time returning to the Republican fold. Democrats wanted to face him, and a group affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association ran ads that tried to convince GOP primary voters to vote for him over ex-Rep. Bob Beauprez. (Their unsubtle tagline was "Tom Tancredo: he's just too conservative for Colorado.")
However, Tancredo narrowly lost the GOP primary 30-27 to Beauprez, who went on to lose to Hickenlooper by a close 49-46 margin. In 2015, though, Tancredo said he was leaving the GOP again, so at this point, it's not clear whether he'd want to join the crowded Republican field for this open-seat race (Hickenlooper is term-limited), or if he'd wage another third-party bid. Given the havoc Tancredo wreaked on Republican fortunes when he went wildcat seven years ago, however, it's easy to say which option Democrats would prefer.
● AL-Sen: On behalf of the election data site Decision Desk HQ, the self-described "centrist" polling firm Opinion Savvy has conducted a survey of next month's GOP primary runoff for Alabama's special election for the Senate and finds former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leading appointed Sen. Luther Strange 50 to 32. That's almost identical to the one other post-primary poll we've seen, courtesy of JMC Analytics, that had Moore ahead 51-32.
Polling an oddly-timed runoff is no easy task, though JMC at least got pretty close to Moore's final margin in the first round, putting him up 30-22 over Strange (he won 39-33). And with two surveys now showing the same thing, Strange and his allies—chief among them Mitch McConnell—should be quite frightened. However, McConnell's well-funded buddies at the Senate Leadership Fund still have about a month until the Sept. 26 runoff to try to pound Moore into submission on the airwaves.
● AZ-Sen: Wowza. Republican pollster HighGround Public Affairs, a local Arizona firm whose work has only rarely popped into public view, has released a new survey showing GOP Sen. Jeff Flake's electoral fortunes in truly abysmal shape, both in the primary and the general. Most stunning is HighGround's finding that Flake is losing his fight for renomination to former state Sen. (and current nutcase) Kelli Ward by a monster 43-28 margin, despite Ward's serious flaws as a candidate and limited name recognition.
It's not hard to understand why, though: To be a Republican in good standing these days, you have to be fully aligned with Donald Trump, and Flake is anything but. Trump's antipathy for Flake is so extreme that at his berserk rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Trump castigated Flake for being "weak on borders" and "weak on crime" while not-at-all-cutely saying, "I will not mention any names." (He just referred to Flake as "your other senator.") Trump immediately tired of that game, though, and soon tweeted the very same utterances about Flake, this time calling him out by name.
A recent PPP poll of Arizona bears this out: Flake's approval rating among self-identified Republican voters was a god-awful 22 percent, with an extraordinary 57 percent disapproving of him! To see members of a politician's own party view him so poorly is really something—normally, a GOP senator should get something like 70 or 80 percent approval scores from fellow Republicans. But these opinions weren't much different from those of Democratic voters, who gave Flake a 15-67 rating (which is normal.)
If Flake does survive to the general election, though, he's in trouble there, too. HighGround finds Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a likely Democratic candidate, beating Flake 41-33. That's terrible for an incumbent, though the numbers are pretty odd, because Sinema only edges Ward 32-31. If Republicans are angry with Flake (and they are), you'd expect them to shift to the undecided column, not to Sinema. But dear lord, if they're so furious that they're willing to vote for a Democrat instead of him, then yikes.
● NV-Gov: Democratic businessman Vince Juaristi, who'd been considering a bid for governor and even said he'd self-fund, has announced that he won't run after all. That leaves Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak as the only Democrat—in fact, the only declared candidate from either party—in this slow-to-develop open-seat race.
● WI-Gov: As expected, state education superintendent Tony Evers kicked off his campaign for governor on Wednesday, making him the highest-profile Democrat in the race. Evers has won election to his current post three times, though the position of superintendent is formally nonpartisan, so this'll be the first time Evers has run statewide with a "(D)" next to his name. Already running for the Democratic nod are businessman Andy Gronik and state Rep. Dana Wachs.
Meanwhile, even though GOP Gov. Scott Walker said just the other day that he's still "about" a month or two away from formally declaring that he'll seek a third term, he did offer a pretty clear indication of his plans earlier this month. In an interview with CNBC, Walker claimed he wouldn't run for president again (remember when he tried that?) but said, "I'm ready to run for governor in 2018. I'm going to fill my term out for the next four years." Well, not if Democrats can help it.
● AL-05: On Tuesday, state Sen. Bill Holtzclaw announced that he would challenge tea partying Rep. Mo Brooks in next year's GOP primary. Holtzclaw says that during Brooks' Senate campaign, which ended in defeat last week, Holtzclaw began considering a run for this safely red Huntsville-area if Brooks won his promotion. Ultimately, Holtzclaw says he was convinced he had enough support to run against Brooks if it came down to it. Holtzclaw argued that this district is lacking "somebody working with those businesses large and small someone who is willing to engage on behalf of those businesses and make it a priority to connect leaders across the 5th District with leaders in Washington." Inspiring stuff, isn't it?
Brooks is a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, and he's been a thorn in the side of the House leadership. Holtzclaw himself had a tiff with then-Gov. Robert Bentley back in 2015. Holtzclaw, a retired Marine, put up a billboard in his district declaring, "Governor Bentley wants to raise your taxes. I will not let that happen. Semper Fi - Senator Bill Holtzclaw." Bentley, a fellow Republican, was not amused, and the director of the state Department of Transportation soon announced that all road projects for Holtzclaw's district would be canceled, though Bentley later backed down. Holtzclaw later said that when he challenged Bentley, who resigned in disgrace a few months ago, "some folks said that was the beginning of the end (for Bentley)." Well, that and the whole sex scandal thing.
Brooks was already facing a primary challenge from businessman Clayton Hinchman, an Army Ranger who lost his right leg in Iraq. If no one takes a majority of the vote, there will be a primary runoff, so Brooks can't just hope Hinchman and Holtzclaw split the anti-incumbent vote. Back when Brooks was challenging appointed Sen. Luther Strange, who had the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a key McConnell ally signed on to Hinchman's campaign. It's unclear if McConnellWorld is still interested in boosting Hinchman now that Brooks' part in the Senate race is over, but if they are, the congressman could be in for a world of hurt.
● IL-13: Former Navy intelligence officer Jonathan Ebel, who'd reportedly been considering a bid, has now entered the Democratic primary in Illinois' 13th Congressional District. Ebel, now a professor at the University of Illinois, joins a few other notable Democrats in the race, including fundraising consultant Betsy Londrigan, attorney Erik Jones, and perennial candidate David Gill, who narrowly lost to Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in 2012. Trump won the 13th 50-44, but in 2012, Mitt Romney carried it by less than a point.
● KS-04, KS-Gov: Republican state Senate President Susan Wagle, who'd been considering bids both for Congress and governor, announced on Tuesday that she'd pursue neither and will instead simply leave the Senate when her current term ends in 2020. Wagle decision to eschew the governor's race won't be particularly impactful, given how crowded the GOP field has become for that contest. But by declining a run in the 4th Congressional District, she allows Rep. Ron Estes to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Estes, of course, was the hapless special election nominee who had to be bailed out by the entire Republican Party despite running in a ruby-red district against an unheralded Democratic opponent. Despite all the help, Estes only managed a weak-ass 6-point win, 20 points worse than both Trump's and Romney's performances here. That feeble showing immediately made him look vulnerable to a primary challenge, and Wagle could have been an opposing opponent. However, Estes might wind up skating, since no other Republicans have expressed an interest in running against him—though with Wagle out of the way, it's possible some others will now emerge. It's also worth noting that earlier this year, Estes was nominated at a party convention rather than through a primary.
● MO-02: Army veteran Mark Osmack, who filed paperwork for a congressional bid last month but didn't make any sort of announcement at the time, officially kicked off his campaign on Tuesday. Osmack, who served in Afghanistan and was awarded a Bronze Star, joins law professor Cort VanOstran among notable Democrats seeking the right to run against GOP Rep. Ann Wagner next year in Missouri's 2nd Congressional District. This seat, in suburban St. Louis, voted 53-42 for Donald Trump—a tough hill for any Democrat to climb, but a little better than Mitt Romney's 57-41 win here in 2012.
● SC-01: Republican state Rep. Katie Arrington, a freshman legislator who filed paperwork with the FEC last month, now says she'll kick off a primary challenge to GOP Rep. Mark Sanford on Aug. 30. As a regular Trump critic, Sanford has found himself on the outs with his fellow Republicans and has basically adopted a YOLO attitude, declaring himself "dead man walking" earlier this year.
Oddly, Arrington also invoked some macabre imagery in an email to supporters announcing her impending announcement, writing, "Please let me know if you can support me as I jump off this cliff." Guess we've got ourselves an old-fashioned BASE jumper vs. trail hiker matchup, huh?
● TX-03: On Wednesday, state Sen. Van Taylor made his long-expected bid for Texas' open 3rd Congressional District official. Taylor, an Iraq vet, is personally wealthy and reportedly intends to spend seven figures on his campaign, something he's done in prior races. In fact, he did just that during his one prior run for Congress, when he lost to Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards 58-40 in 2006 in what was then the 17th District, back in an era when congressional Democrats still regularly held deep red turf.
This time, though, Taylor should face no such trouble: While Texas' 3rd moved sharply against Donald Trump last year, Trump still won it 55-41. (Mitt Romney had carried it 64-34 four years earlier.) Interestingly, the 3rd has zero overlap with the old 17th, but Taylor's current seat in the Senate has almost perfect overlap with the 3rd, so that and his money make him the frontrunner—plus the fact that no other notable Republicans are running (or even considering) the race to succeed retiring Rep. Sam Johnson.
In an amusing twist, though, there's a Democrat in the race whose name is … Sam Johnson. Could we see a Distinguished Gentleman-type situation arise? Vote Sam Johnson—it's the name you know!
● Special Elections: As expected, Democrat Dawn Euer easily defeated Republican Mike Smith by a 58-39 margin to keep Rhode Island's 13th State Senate District blue in a special election on Tuesday night. The result was somewhat unusual, though, in that Euer ran behind both Hillary Clinton (who carried this seat 65-30) and Barack Obama (who won it 65-33). Folks who've been following Daily Kos Elections' coverage of special elections around the nation this year know that Democrats have consistently run ahead of recent presidential candidates.
This sort of underperformance is bound to happen some of the time, though, and the Ocean State is a particularly likely place for it. According to a very interesting analysis by Nate Silver, Rhode Island is the least polarized state in the entire nation, so it's less surprising to see a divergence between presidential and legislative results there. In addition, Euer represents a major upgrade over the prior holder of this seat, former state Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed: While Weed opposed abortion rights, Euer supports them.
● Birmingham, AL Mayor: Alabama's largest city held its non-partisan primary on Tuesday, and former Birmingham school board president Randall Woodfin outpaced Mayor William Bell 41-37. Because no one took a majority of the vote, Woodfin and Bell will face off in the Oct. 3 general election.
Woodfin's campaign against Bell, a fellow Democrat who is seeking a third term, attracted the attention of national progressives. Notably, Woodfin called for free college tuition for the city's high school graduates. Woodfin has also argued while downtown Birmingham is benefiting from the Bell administration, the city's black and poor residents are not.
● Pres-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections' project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation hits Missouri, a former swing state where the GOP is now firmly in control. You can find our master list of states here, which we'll be updating as we add new data sets; you can also find all of our calculations from 2016 and past cycles here.
While swingy Missouri backed the winning presidential candidate in every election from 1960 to 2004, Democrats picked up the state House in 1948 and the Senate in 1954, and they held both chambers for decades. But things began to change in 1992, when voters passed a term-limits law that gradually forced longtime rural Democrats out of office. The GOP took the Senate in 2000 and the House two years later, and Republic Eric Greitens' victory in last year's governor's race gave Team Red full control of the state government. The GOP holds a 117 to 46 supermajority in the House (Daily Kos Elections assigns vacant seats to the party that last held them) and an even larger 25 to nine edge in the Senate.
It certainly doesn't help Democrats that Missouri has swerved hard to the right in recent years. In 2008, John McCain defeated Barack Obama 49.4-49.2, his only win in a seriously contested state, and the first time ever that a Democratic presidential nominee had won the White House while losing Missouri. Four years later, the Obama campaign focused its efforts elsewhere, and Mitt Romney won 54-44. In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton 56-38. Trump carried 120 of the 163 House seats and 25 of the 34 Senate districts.
We'll start with a look at the House, which is up every two years. Even though Trump's margin of victory was considerably larger than Romney's, the two carried the same counties, so it's not a surprise that few state House seats switched sides. Trump ended up losing two Romney seats while picking up two Obama districts. The only large shift in this group was HD-10, which is located in Buchanan County north of Kansas City. This seat went from 50-47 Obama to 53-39 Trump, but Democrat Pat Conway won his fourth and final term without any opposition.
The other Obama/Trump seat, HD-29 in the Kansas City area, is held by Democrat Rory Rowland. The seat drifted from 50-48 Obama to 47.4-47.1 Trump, but Rowland also had no opposition. The two Romney/Clinton seats, which were close in both presidential races, are held by Republicans.
In addition to Conway and Rowland, just three Democrats hold Trump seats. The reddest is HD-118, located south of St. Louis. The seat swung from 55-43 Romney to a punishing 71-25 Trump, but Democrat Ben Harris also won his fourth and final term without opposition. HD-21 in the Kansas City area went from 50-48 Romney to 51-42 Trump, but Democrat Ira Anders won his final term 58-42. Mark Ellebracht managed to win his first term 51-46 last year after two very close losses even as his Clay County went from 50-48 Romney to 50-43 Trump. The two Romney/Clinton seats are the only Clinton seats in GOP hands.
Things aren't much different in the Senate. Trump picked up one Obama seat, with the Kansas City-area SD-11 going from 50-48 Obama to 50-44 Trump. However, Democrat John Rizzo won his first term 50-44 last year; no other Democrats represent Trump seats. The one Republican in a Clinton seat is freshman Caleb Rowden, who holds the Columbia-area SD-11. This seat backed Obama 48.68-48.65 and Clinton 47-46, but Rowden won 51-49 last year. Half the Senate is up in presidential years, while the other half is up in midterm cycles.
While the GOP-led legislature, with the help of a few Democrats, passed their congressional map over Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto in 2011, things worked differently for the legislative lines. After the bipartisan redistricting commission failed to agree on new maps, a backup commission of six appellate judges took over. The judge's state House map took effect after unsuccessful lawsuits to block it. However, after the Missouri Supreme Court blocked the court-drawn Senate map, Nixon appointed a new bipartisan redistricting commission, which eventually agreed on the current state Senate lines.
Even though neither legislative map was a GOP gerrymander, the lines give Republicans a built-in edge. One way to illustrate this is to sort each seat in the House by Clinton's margin of victory over Trump to see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted. Because the Senate has an even number of seats, we average the two middle seats to come up with the median point in the chamber. The median House seat backed Trump 63-32, well to the right of his 56-38 statewide win, while the median point in the Senate supported Trump 64-31.
However, Missouri is a state where geography gives the GOP a huge advantage. Clinton, like Obama four years before, carried St. Louis City and St. Louis County on the eastern side of the state, Kansas City and the rest of Jackson County on the west, Columbia's Boone County in the middle, and nothing else.
Even 2016 Democratic Senate nominee Jason Kander, who lost to Republican incumbent Roy Blunt just 49-46, had a similar issue. The only Romney/Trump counties that Kander carried are Platte and Clay, which are both located near Kansas City. As long as Democrats remain packed into just a few areas, they're going to have a tough time winning back the legislature under a non-partisan map even if Missouri becomes more competitive in presidential races.