One thing keeping Strange in contention is the heavy advantage he and his allies have on the airwaves. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the latest to debut a new ad on Strange's behalf. Their new spot praises Strange for taking on the Obama administration while he was Alabama's attorney general. They also laud Strange for "keeping our courts conservative" by voting to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The Chamber is only putting $138,000 behind the ad, which isn't a considerable amount for such a well-funded group.
Of course, Moore doesn't need TV ads when his own words do a fine job of keeping his name in the news. During a recent campaign event, Moore did his best to harken back to the naked bigotry of past decades when he referred to Native Americans and Asian Americans as "reds and yellows" in a speech lamenting how Americans are being torn apart by internal divisions and need to turn to God.
This rhetoric continues a long line of bigoted and offensive comments Moore has made. For instance, he said earlier in 2017 that 9/11 was God's retribution for America's lack of adherence to Christian fundamentalist values, while he claimed without evidence last month that "There are communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Up in Illinois." And that's just the tip of the iceberg for someone who was removed from the bench twice for violating the rule of law to impose his own homophobic and fundamentalist religious beliefs.
While such language is unlikely to hurt Moore in a Republican primary and Alabama is a staunchly conservative state, his extremism has already turned off moderate Republican voters in a general election once before, when he won his last judicial race by just 52-48 in 2012 even as Mitt Romney carried Alabama 61-38. Of course, a federal race in such a polarized political environment means even Moore would have to start off this fall's general election as a heavy favorite if he wins the primary, but his nomination would go a long way toward testing just how much extremism Alabama's remaining moderate Republicans are willing to take.
● ND-Sen: The Club for Growth, a hardline anti-tax group that plays a major role in boosting insurgent GOP extremist candidates, has released a new poll from WPA Intelligence that tests a hypothetical general election matchup between Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Republican state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt. Their survey gives Schmidt a 48-44 lead in the rarely polled Senate race.
Schmidt, who has been in office since her initial 2004 election, has so far flown under the radar as a potential Republican candidate. She has yet to even acknowledge that she is interested, but this release could be intended to entice her into running. Wealthy state Sen. Tom Campbell is so far the only noteworthy Republican to have already joined the race, but several more Republicans have previously said they're considering running against Heitkamp, who is one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents up for re-election next year after Trump won North Dakota by 63-27.
● AL-Gov: Gov. Kay Ivey has released a new poll from the Tarrance Group showing her with a commanding lead in next year's Republican primary. Tarrance says Ivey crushes Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle by 66-11, while evangelical minister Scott Dawson and state Sen. Bill Hightower each take just 3 percent. The survey did not appear to test state Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, who is also running, or state Auditor Jim Zeigler, who is still considering the race.
While Ivey undoubtedly starts off with a massive name-recognition advantage against her rivals, Tarrance's finding that she has an 80 percent approval rating and just a 5 percent disapproval rating with GOP primary voters is a sign that the incumbent is still heavily favored even once her opponents become better known. The large field of notable challengers indicates that some major Republicans think the incumbent could be vulnerable after her elevation to the office this spring upon disgraced ex-Gov. Robert Bentley's resignation. However, it will likely take a lot for them to convince primary voters to ditch an incumbent who has so far done little to alienate key Republican constituencies.
● CO-Gov: In an interview with local Denver NBC affiliate 9News, former Rep. Tom Tancredo says he has rejoined the Republican Party after leaving the GOP in 2015 and puts his odds of running for governor next year at 50 percent. Tancredo had stated back in August that he was thinking about running for governor again, and the anti-immigrant hardliner would be a natural fit for Trump's white-nationalist GOP.
Tancredo ran for governor back in 2014, but narrowly lost the Republican primary to fellow ex-Rep. Bob Beauprez, who went on to narrowly lose the general election to Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper. Tancredo's 2010 gubernatorial bid didn't go much better when he lost the general election 51-37 to Hickenlooper under the banner of the far-right Constitution Party, with a scandal-plagued GOP nominee earning just 11 percent. While Tancredo's extremely hawkish views on immigration and his support for white supremacist groups may endear him to Trump's primary base, Democrats would salivate at the chance to face a candidate with such toxic positions in the general election.
● MD-Gov: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has thrown his hat into the ring for next year's Democratic primary, becoming the latest in a long line of Democrats to seek the nomination to take on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018. Kamenetz faces term limits next year after having led Maryland's third-largest county since 2010, and he had been publicly considering running for governor for months.
Kamenetz joins a Democratic primary that has quickly grown very crowded, with a field that includes Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, state Sen. Richard Madaleno, former NAACP president Ben Jealous, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross, prominent attorney Jim Shea, and former Michelle Obama policy director Krish Vignarajah.
● MI-Gov: State Attorney General Bill Schuette kicked off his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination just last week, but he has already secured the surprise endorsement of Donald Trump himself. Trump tweeted out his support for "Attorney General Bill Shuette" [sic], making this the first time since he took office that he has weighed in on a contested Republican primary for an open seat.
This endorsement could just be yet another example of Trump harboring long-term grudges, since it may be intended as payback against Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who is a likely candidate but hasn't officially joined the primary yet. Calley called on Trump to drop out of last year's general election after the infamous Access Hollywood tape scandal, while Schuette never wavered in his support for Trump after the presidential primaries.
● NJ-Gov: Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno's beleaguered gubernatorial campaign is out with two new ads ahead of this November's general election against Democrat Phil Murphy. The first one is a mainly positive spot that highlights Guadagno's middle-class roots to argue she understands what it's like for working families. She promises to rein in government spending and cut property taxes, while attacking Murphy for saying he'll increase taxes. The second ad is a 15-second segment that blasts Murphy for wanting to raise taxes on everything in sight, using a quote where he promises to raise taxes because "it's a ton of money" while omitting any context about the particular taxes in question.
● SC-Gov: Shortly after last November's election, Democratic state Sen. Gerald Malloy hadn't ruled out running for governor next year, but he didn't appear to be a particularly likely candidate. However, Malloy has broken his long silence about the race and now says that he is indeed considering running after serving in the legislature since a 2002 special election victory. The Post and Courier describes him as "one of the more outspoken Democrats in the state Senate," and Malloy has made a name for himself by pushing for criminal-justice reform.
No notable Democrats have yet joined the race, but state Rep. James Smith recently filed his paperwork to do so while he considers it. Malloy, who is African American, could have an advantage over Smith, who is white, if the primary ends up splitting along racial lines in a state where black voters often make up a substantial majority in Democratic primary electorates.
● VA-Gov: Two new polls of this November's gubernatorial election continue to find a close race between Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie. The first one, from Suffolk on behalf of USA Today, shows the race tied at 42-42 apiece, with Libertarian Clifford Hyra earning 2 percent. This survey is Suffolk's first one of the contest, and it surprisingly shows Donald Trump's approval rating at 41 percent with only 51 percent disapproving, which is markedly better for him than the consensus of national polls would suggest for a light-blue state. That could be a sign that Suffolk's likely voter sample is simply too red, but it could also indicate Democrats are having trouble turning out their voters for an odd-year state election.
The University of Mary Washington also published its own poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, which was also its first of the race and appears to be part of its annual foray into polling the Old Dominion. They contend that Northam leads Gillespie 44-39 while Hyra takes 3 percent. Both of these results are consistent with prior surveys in this relatively under-polled general election, which have ranged from a tie to a modest Northam lead since the June primaries.
Although the polls remain close, the money chase over the last few months surprisingly was not. Northam raised a staggering $7.2 million in July and August, and he started September with a healthy $5.6 million on-hand. Despite his previous stint as Republican National Committee chairman, Gillespie raised only $3.7 million in comparison and had just $2.6 million on hand at the end of August.
● CA-07: Surgeon Yona Barash, an outspoken Trump supporter, has joined the race to unseat Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in this suburban Sacramento seat. Barash has never held office, but the Sacramento Bee reports that his campaign is being run by the same people who handled 2016 GOP nominee Scott Jones' tight loss against Bera. One other Republican, businessman and Marine veteran Andrew Grant, is challenging Bera in this district, which swung from 51-47 Obama to 52-41 Clinton.
● CA-48: This is just wild. Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who is widely reported to be Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin's favorite congressman, is now shilling for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Rohrabacher pitched White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on the idea of pardoning Assange, or "something like that," in exchange for supposed evidence that would prove Russia had no role in the hacking of Democratic campaigns last year.
Of course, Assange faces charges of espionage if he were to ever be extradited to the U.S. He's been holed up Ecuador's United Kingdom embassy for the last five years to avoid being extradited to Sweden for questioning regarding his role in a suspected rape, but Assange has remained there to avoid being sent to the U.S. even after Sweden ended its investigation in May. It wasn't that long ago that prominent conservatives were figuratively calling for Assange's head on a spike, but partisanship makes for strange bedfellows, indeed.
This isn't the first time that Rohrabacher has done something this batshit crazy. Just last week, Rohrabacher put on his tinfoil hat to argue that the Charlottesville Nazis and KKK protesters were "Civil War re-enactors" who were part of a Democratic plot of manipulation to manufacture a confrontation and "put our president on the spot." He previously met with far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, went on Albanian television and declared that "Macedonia is not a state" and should be split up and given to other countries, and had gotten involved with his close friend and disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a strange plan ostensibly to help the Republic of Congo defeat the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Although the incumbent has held down his coastal Orange County district with ease for 15 terms, this diversifying and highly educated suburban seat zoomed leftward from 55-43 Romney to 48-46 Clinton last year, and its demographics render it a prime target for Democrats next year as 2018 is shaping up to be a backlash to Trump nationally. Rohrabacher already faces several serious Democratic challengers, and this latest insanity is likely doing him no favors with general election voters.
● CO-04: Two months ago, GOP Rep. Ken Buck said he'd consider running for state attorney general next year if incumbent Cynthia Coffman left to join the GOP primary for governor. Coffman has not announced her decision, but Buck seems to have cooled on the idea of leaving the House. Buck didn't quite rule it out, but he told local radio host Ross Kaminsky that, "Right now, I think it's very unlikely that I do anything other than stay focused on running for the 4th Congressional District and doing the job that I enjoy doing here in D.C." Trump carried Buck's eastern Colorado seat 57-34.
● MI-11, MI-Sen: On Monday, three Republicans announced that they were running to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Dave Trott in this 50-45 Trump seat in suburban Detroit: businesswoman Lena Epstein, state Rep. Klint Kesto, and ex-state Rep. Rocky Raczkowski. No other noteworthy Republicans were running before this trio announced, though several are considering. Two Democrats were running before Trott retired.
Back in May, Epstein, who co-chaired Trump's Michigan campaign and whose family owns an automotive and industrial lubricant company, announced that she would challenge Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Epstein raised $211,000 during her first five weeks in the Senate race and loaned herself another $250,000, money that she can easily transfer to a House campaign. Kesto is a former assistant county prosecutor in Wayne County who has served three terms in a light red state House seat.
Raczkowski is a former House majority leader and an Army veteran who served in Iraq. Raczkowski has been out of office since 2002, when he lost the U.S. Senate race to Democratic incumbent Carl Levin 61-38. Raczkowski tried to resuscitate his political career in 2010, when he challenged freshman Democratic Rep. Gary Peters for the old 9th Congressional District. (About one-third of that old seat is located in Trott's district.) Raczkowski lost to Peters 50-47, a rare success for Democrats in a swing seat in a horrible year. Four years later, Raczkowski narrowly lost a primary for the state Senate to eventual winner Marty Knollenberg, who has talked about running for Trott's seat.
As we noted last week, Raczkowski's allies and his own antics got him into trouble during his congressional campaign. At a fundraiser for his congressional campaign, prominent conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly drew unflattering headlines for Raczkowski when she declared that, besides "the blacks," the largest group to vote for Obama was unmarried women, because "when you kick your husband out, you've got to have big brother government to be your provider." Raczkowski awkwardly tried to distance himself from Schlafly's comments by saying he "believe[s] in equality for everyone. I'm color-blind and gender blind," coming very close to accidentally echoing Stephen Colbert.
Raczkowski also drew headlines in 2010 when he told Politico that he would "love" to see Obama's birth certificate; Raczkowski's campaign later said his comments were taken out of context and that he didn't question Obama's citizenship, though they didn't explain what the proper context actually was.
● NY-11: When we heard that ex-Rep. Mike Grimm, who resigned in 2015 ahead of a short prison sentence for tax fraud, was considering challenging Rep. Dan Donavan in the GOP primary… well, let's just say we could already smell the cat fud. Over the weekend, NY1 reported that Grimm will announce on Oct. 1 that's he's in, and Grimm did not comment when asked. This Staten Island seat swung from 52-47 Obama to 54-44 Trump, and even Grimm may not be able to lose it in a general election. Still, a GOP primary involving Grimm, who once told a reporter that he'd "break you in half. Like a boy" while the camera was running would be anything but boring.
● PA-11: On Monday, state Rep. Stephen Bloom announced that he was joining the GOP primary to succeed Senate candidate Lou Barletta. Bloom had set up a campaign account with the FEC a month ago, a few weeks before Barletta announced that he was leaving the House, so his decision is hardly a surprise. Meanwhile, Andrew Lewis, who is the chief operating officer of his family's drywall business, recently said he would likely decide if he would join the GOP primary in the next few weeks. The only other notable announced Republican candidate for this red Wyoming Valley seat is ex-state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser.
● PA-15: Earlier this month, GOP Rep. Charlie Dent announced he was retiring from this Lehigh Valley seat. This district moved from 51-48 Romney to 52-44 Trump, but Dent's departure gives Democrats their best chance to flip it in years. John Morganelli, a Democrat who has served as district attorney of Northampton County since 1991, said over the weekend that he will talk to the DCCC and "decide definitely soon" on a bid. Northampton County makes up 22 percent of this seat.
Morganelli has run for state attorney general twice. He lost the 2008 general election to GOP incumbent Tom Corbett 52-46; however, Morganelli did well in the Lehigh Valley, and he says he carried the 15th District. Morganelli ran again last year and took a distant third place in the Democratic primary with just 16 percent of the vote. However, Morganelli again did well in this area.
Morganelli is a self-described moderate, and he said that the 15th "is not a liberal district and it fits my moderate profile well." Morganelli sounds quite interested in running, saying that, "No Democrat here has my name ID," and that, according to an analysis he commissioned, "although it doesn't guarantee victory, I start with a huge advantage."
If Morganelli runs, he won't have the primary to himself. Bill Leiner, a former mayor of the small borough of Coplay, entered the race in May, but he didn't report raising any money by the end of June. Pastor Greg Edwards, who founded a church in Allentown, jumped in last week, but it's unclear if he has the connections to run a serious bid. PoliticsPA's Paul Engelkemier wrote last week ex-state party chair T.J. Rooney, Bethlehem City Councilman Willie Reynolds, and ex-state Rep. Jennifer Mann were rumored to be considering running in the Democratic primary, but we've heard nothing else from that trio.
And indeed, Morganelli is far from a liberal. Notably, during last year's tight Senate race, Morganelli joined GOP Sen. Pat Toomey to discuss sanctuary cities, an issue Toomey and his allies loved to use against Democratic nominee Katie McGinty. Morganelli said after the event that he wasn't backing Toomey, but showing solidarity on an "issue I have been involved with for 16 or 17 years." After the election, Morganelli tweeted at Trump, "Thankful for your coming leadership. Waiting to hear from transition. Met you at Bedminister when I played in Member Guest," and "Pa. most senior prosecutor against illegal immigration waiting to hear from transition. Hope to serve. Met Pres at Bedminste" [sic].
Perhaps worst of all, Morganelli told Trump's twitter account, "Pres-elect sent personal note to my son. I worked with Barletta and Kobach against illegal immigration. Pa. most senior DA." Kris Kobach is the notorious Kansas secretary of state who is now spearheading Trump's bogus voter-fraud commission, while Rep. Lou Barletta is now seeking the GOP nod to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in Pennsylvania.