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, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● Site News: Daily Kos Elections is extremely excited to announce our brand-new elections portal, available at elections.dailykos.com, with an array of new tools designed to help make sense of the 2018 midterms, including our race ratings for every Senate, House, and gubernatorial race, and poll charts for every contest where we have survey data.
The left-hand side of our revamped site leads off with the Live Digest, which is our liveblog of each day's top news from every competitive race around the country. Below that, you'll find a signup for the Morning Digest, our highly regarded newsletter that repackages each day's Live Digest and goes out to subscribers by email at 8 AM each weekday morning without fail—for free.
From there, you'll find all the content published on the Daily Kos Elections blog (aka the old version of our site), and below that, you'll see election-related stories from Daily Kos community members. If you write such a post yourself, add the tag "DKECommunity" and your story will appear there, too!
The right-hand column is where you'll find interactive maps displaying all of our race ratings, along with a summary of recent changes. Click any state or district and you'll get to the real goodies: poll charts featuring every publicly released poll of every race, with trendlines showing the current polling average. That includes everything from high-profile contests like the Texas Senate race, where Ted Cruz has a narrow lead on Beto O'Rourke, to battles that will decide the outcome of the House, such as the race in California's 49th District, where Democrat Mike Levin has a wider advantage over Republican Diane Harkey.
We also have new overview pages that showcase all of our ratings for the Senate, House, and governorships in one place, which you can find in the banner across the top of the site. There you'll also see a pull-down that lets you access historical data from the 2015-16 election cycle; when this cycle concludes, we'll similarly archive everything we've collected so that researchers and data junkies will always have access to our data.
Toward the bottom of the main page of the site, you'll see something entirely new: an embedded chart showing the generic congressional ballot as polled by Civiqs, a new online polling firm owned by the parent company of Daily Kos. Civiqs polls its panel continuously, so the numbers are updated daily. You can find similar charts for other questions, such as Donald Trump's job approval rating, or views on gun safety, on Civiqs' dashboard—again, all updated continuously.
Below that, you'll find a set of links to some of our most frequently accessed data sets, such as our presidential election results by congressional district and our 2018 candidate guide, as well as a link that houses all of our data collections. And finally, you'll see candidates Daily Kos has endorsed, with links to donate to each of them.
Election Day is just five weeks away, and we aim to keep you on top of every important development between now and then. Our new site will help us do exactly that, so please, check it out!
Race Ratings Changes
● PA-Sen, PA-Gov (Likely D to Safe D): Donald Trump's upset win in Pennsylvania gave the GOP early hope that they could take down Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf, but this cycle hasn't shaped up that way. Poll after poll gives Casey a double-digit lead over Rep. Lou Barletta, while Wolf has a similar edge against former state Sen. Scott Wagner. Outside groups on both sides have also steered clear of both races, so we're taking them off the big board.
● WI-Sen (Lean D to Likely D): Sen. Tammy Baldwin is another Democrat sitting in a state that flipped from Obama to Trump who nevertheless looks strong going into the final weeks of the election. While Baldwin faced millions of dollars' worth of outside spending from the Koch brothers early on, recent polls give her a decisive lead over Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir. While Vukmir's wealthy allies are still financing a super PAC to help her, most other major outside groups have moved on to other contests.
Wisconsin can be unpredictable and we're not ready to write off the GOP's chances just yet, but it's going to be very tough to beat Baldwin at a time when Trump threatens to drag down the entire ticket.
● AL-Gov (Likely R to Safe R): Doug Jones' win in last year's special election gave Alabama Democrats some optimism that they could win back the governor's mansion after 16 years of GOP rule, but this still remains a state where Team Blue needs everything to go right to win. This time, that's not happening: GOP Gov. Kay Ivey has posted strong approval numbers, and she's held big leads over Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in the few polls we've seen. There's been no outside spending to suggest that polling is off-base.
● TN-Gov (Likely R to Safe R): Tennessee is another very tough state for Democrats, and businessman Bill Lee hasn't given former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean much of an opening. Every poll released over the last two months has not only given Lee a big lead, he's also clocking at over 50 percent in all of them. This is another race that the big outside groups have stayed away from.
● CA-49 (Tossup to Lean D): While this coastal San Diego-area seat played host to the tightest House race of 2016, the battle to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Darrell Issa is shaping up to be a bit less competitive. According to FEC filings, neither the NRCC nor the Congressional Leadership Fund has aired any ads here during the month of September to aid Republican Diane Harkey, while Democrats have only spent a little on digital advertising. The DCCC has also cut much of their October TV reservation for the San Diego media market, another sign that Democrats feel good about Mike Levin's chances in a district that swung from 52-46 Romney to 51-43 Clinton.
And the polling confirms it: Levin posted a hefty 51-41 lead over Harkey in a recent Siena survey, while Harkey responded with a confusingly worded poll in which she appeared to trail by 2 points—not very convincing pushback. (She also appears to have leaked the survey to the white supremacist site Breitbart, which seems like the wrong audience for a seat that reacted so badly to Trump two years ago.) We're still keeping an eye on his historically red area to see if outside groups decide to jump in after all, but it's not looking good for Harkey right now.
● PA-06 (Likely D to Safe D): Republicans have shown no interest in spending to help Some Dude Greg McCauley, who became their nominee by default after Rep. Ryan Costello announced his retirement only after the March filing deadline. This Chester County-based seat swung sharply from just 51-48 Obama all the way to 53-43 Clinton, and Team Red seems to have decided long ago to cede it to Democrat Chrissy Houlahan rather than launch an expensive effort to boost McCauley.
● PA-07 (Tossup to Lean D): While this open Lehigh Valley seat shrank from 53-46 Obama to 49-48 Clinton, Democrat Susan Wild looks like the one to beat here. Republicans have privately fretted that Marty Nothstein is running a weak campaign, and NRCC chair Steve Stivers publicly wouldn't commit to spending money to help him. Two recent polls also found Wild ahead, with Monmouth giving her a small 47-45 edge while Siena put her up by a wide 50-42. Republicans never responded to either survey.
● PA-17 (Lean D to Likely D): Republicans seem convinced that GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus is in very bad shape against Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb (court-ordered redistricting threw them into the same seat). The NRCC recently canceled their entire ad reservation to aid Rothfus, and the Congressional Leadership Fund never invested in air time here at all. To add insult to injury, the super PAC America First Action also canceled their planned ad reservations here. This suburban Pittsburgh seat did still back Trump 49-47, and Rothfus began the summer with millions in the bank, so he still may be able to put up a fight, but things are looking very dire for him.
● VA-07 (Lean R to Tossup): Both parties have converged on this suburban Richmond seat, and a trio of recent polls have found a tight race between GOP Rep. Dave Brat and Democrat Abigail Spanberger. This district did back Donald Trump 51-44 and Ed Gillespie by a modest 51-47 during last year's race for governor, but Brat has never had to face a competitive general election before, while Spanberger is running a strong campaign. Brat's allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund also seem worried, since they've repeatedly risked a backlash by using an ill-gotten security application to attack Spanberger.
● MN-Sen-B: Great America PAC has launched a $100,000 TV buy for Republican Karin Housley, making them the first outside group to go on TV for one of the candidates.
● TN-Sen: Republican Marsha Blackburn's latest ad tries to attack Democrat Phil Bredesen over a law that was enacted a year before he became governor. Her spot charges that Bredesen "gave drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants" before it hits him for opposing Trump's immigration ban against several Muslim countries and features audio of the Democrat saying he didn't believe a border wall is "the right answer."
The Tennessean points out the law the Blackburn ad cites was a bill approved a year before Bredesen was elected governor in 2002. The measure, which was passed with bipartisan support, allowed people without Social Security numbers to get a driver's license. Blackburn, who was in the legislature at the time, did oppose it, but she supported a compromise measure to add "For Driving Purposes Only" on the licenses of immigrants who did not have Social Security numbers.
As governor, Bredesen signed a bill that would require anyone who couldn't prove they were in the country legally to get a driving certificate that couldn't be used for identification purposes. He later supported legislation, which was passed overwhelmingly, that repealed that law and replaced it with temporary licenses and IDs.
● FL-Gov: Oof. Republican Ron DeSantis sent a text-message blast to Florida voters with Jewish surnames on Thursday night featuring ugly comments made by Democrat Andrew Gillum's running-mate, Chris King, after he lost a race for student body president at Harvard in 1999. Speaking of the Harvard Crimson, which had been critical of his candidacy, King said, "I was nailed to the cross. And most of the editorial staff that was so hard on me, the vast majority were Jewish."
While DeSantis' campaign claimed the remarks were "newly unearthed," they're not. Politico's Marc Caputo reports that King has in fact "repeatedly apologized" for what he said, including once again this summer, when they came up during the gubernatorial primary (in which King also ran). Gillum's campaign responded by calling DeSantis' texts "straight out of the Trump playbook" and said they "will not go unanswered," but what that answer will look like, we have yet to see.
Alaska Survey Research is run by Ivan Moore, who has worked for Democrat Ethan Berkowitz in the past. However, Moore says this survey, which is the first of five, is "funded by a consortium of varied interests, all of whom wish to see comprehensive, publicly-released tracking data on the Governor's race through to the election," and that members of the consortium "are supportive of multiple candidates in the race." He adds that his firm is not doing work for any of the three candidates.
The last poll we saw for Alaska's three-way race was a mid-August survey done for the state AFL-CIO, which supports Walker. That poll gave Dunleavy the lead with 36 percent, while Walker and Begich were at 26 and 24, respectively. Both polls underscore how tough it will be to stop Dunleavy as long as both Begich and Walker remain in the race, but neither of them show any sign of dropping out. However, while it's too late to get off the ballot, either candidate can still end their campaign and endorse the other.
Mason-Dixon's survey is a bit better for Jealous than the 54-32 deficit Goucher College gave him in mid-September, but it's still not great news with so little time remaining.
Over in Oklahoma, Right Strategy Group says they do "not publicly poll races in which we are working for one of the candidates." The only other poll we've seen here over the last month was a SoonerPoll that had Stitt up by a similar 47-44 margin.
● CA-50: Days after indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter launched an Islamophobic tirade against Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, the California Republican is up with a campaign ad hitting the same notes. And even for the Trump-era GOP, it's some awful stuff.
The narrator begins right off the bat by declaring, "Ammar Campa-Najjar is working to infiltrate Congress," and accuses him of using "three different names to hide his family's ties to terrorism." The commercial then says that the Democrat's grandfather "masterminded the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre," while his father said the murdered Israeli athletes "deserved to die." The on-screen text accompanying that last claim cites One America News Network (OAAN), a pro-Trump cable news outlet infamous for pushing conspiracy theories, as its source.
The spot goes on call Campa-Najjar "a Palestinian-American Mexican millennial Democrat" and shows a clip from OAAN with a man declaring that Campa-Najjar is supported by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Brotherhood, concluding conspiratorially, "This is a well-orchestrated plan."
Of course, this is all a complete load of garbage. Campa-Najjar never knew his paternal grandfather, who died 16 years before the candidate was born, and has condemned his actions. Campa-Najjar is also a practicing Christian, though Hunter doesn't care about that. Campa-Najjar's campaign also adds that, while Hunter makes it sound like he changed his name to hide his family's background, he changed his middle name from Yasser (his father's first name) to Joseph as a matter of personal preference—and in any event, his family history has long been well-known.
About the only thing this ad gets right about the Democrat is that Campa-Najjar is indeed a "Palestinian-American Mexican millennial Democrat," but of course that's just a way to "other" the candidate in this predominantly white and Republican seat. But Hunter, who was indicted in August for allegedly spending campaign money for personal purposes, seems very convinced this is a winning line of attack, and we shouldn't expect him to stop.
● CO-06: On Friday, Politico reported that the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund had canceled all its planned TV advertising to help two very vulnerable Republican congressmen whom their private polls show in bad shape: Colorado's Mike Coffman and Michigan's Mike Bishop. Politico says CLF had $1 million reserved in Colorado and $2.1 million in Michigan, money that will be redeployed to races they see as more competitive. And it's not just the GOP that's pulling out: Politico ads that the House Majority PAC, the main pro-Democratic super PAC, quietly canceled $800,000 in planned TV time in Coffman's race days earlier.
We'll start with a look at Colorado's 6th, and we'll discuss Michigan separately in our MI-08 item below. We've only seen one poll here in months, but that was Siena's mid-September survey for the New York Times, which found Coffman badly trailing Democrat Jason Crow 51-40. Team Red has yet to offer up any better numbers, and based on Politico's reporting, we certainly shouldn't expect any.
This turn of fate is somewhat unexpected, though. Coffman is a tough bugger who has a history of winning very expensive fights in this competitive suburban Denver seat, most recently pulling off a 51-43 victory in 2016 even as Hillary Clinton was carrying his district 50-41. However, Donald Trump has been particularly toxic in well-educated, affluent areas like this one, so much so that the "moderate" image Coffman has carefully crafted for himself over the years is no longer providing sufficient insulation.
And while CLF has spent heavily on ads attacking Crow, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, they don't seem to have done him nearly enough damage. Coffman is still a well-funded incumbent who has run ahead of the ticket many times, and the DCCC has still been airing ads, so not everyone has left Coffman for the vultures. But the congressman would need a near-miraculous turn-around in the next five weeks to stave off his looming fate, which is why Daily Kos Elections is moving this contest from Tossup to Lean Democratic.
● MI-08: On Friday, the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund announced that they'd canceled the $2.1 million in TV time they'd reserved to protect GOP Rep. Mike Bishop, with unnamed Republicans telling Politico the group made its decision because private polls showed the incumbent trailing well-funded Democrat Elissa Slotkin. (Interestingly, the CLF's chief Corey Bliss named this very seat back in June as one of the two races he'd be watching to see which party would win the House; the other was GOP Rep. Mimi Walter's California's 45th District.) However, the NRCC has been running spots here, so not all national Republicans seem ready to triage Bishop.
Bishop is also arguing he's very much still in the fight, and he quickly released a mid-September survey from Public Opinion Strategies in response to the CLF cancellations that gave him a narrow 45-43 lead over Slotkin. Days ago, Slotkin released her own poll that gave her a small 47-43 lead, which likewise suggests that Bishop isn't in quite as dire shape as the CLF seems to think he is. The good news is that we'll get our first independent look at this race very soon from Siena on behalf of the New York Times. For the moment, we're keeping our rating here at Tossup, but we're going to be re-evaluating that in the coming days.
Notably, Medium Buying reported two weeks ago that the DCCC canceled all its planned TV time for the Lansing media market, which covers about 40 percent of this seat. We wondered at the time what the D-Trip was thinking, so it's possible the committee's move was an early indication that they felt good about Slotkin's chances in this seat, which moved from a narrow 51-48 Romney to a larger 51-44 Trump.
● NJ-03: Democrat Andy Kim is up with a response ad pushing back on Republican claims that he exaggerated his security record. The commercial stars retired Marine Col. James Seaton, who tells the audience that he hired Kim to join a small team who "worked directly for Gen. David Petraeus in Afghanistan," and that Kim "served our general, our service members, and our nation, with honor and distinction."
Seaton adds that "when his service is attacked it's not just wrong. It's offensive." He concludes that Kim's "not a Marine. But I am. And I can tell you, he's a great American, and it was my privilege to serve beside him."
● NY-19: Watching the first few seconds of the latest NRCC ad attacking Democrat Antonio Delgado, you might wonder if this spot actually isn't going to go all racist, but have no worries: It quickly describes him as "big-city rapper Antonio Delgado," while calling him a pawn of Nancy Pelosi and Andrew Cuomo who wants voters to basically give up their first-born in order to pay for a "radical government takeover of health care." It finishes the same way, with a shot of Delgado with his face partly obscured by a hoodie, the symbolism of which needs no explication.
● NY-24: Republican Rep. John Katko has a new ad where he talks about working to keep the local lakes safe and clean, though the spot is put together a bit oddly. The commercial features a typo in the on-screen text that declares that the congressman is a "booster of bipartanship." Katko himself also talks about the importance of clean water by saying "We bathe in it. And make baby formula with it," which makes it sound like he's talking about the same bathtub full of water!
● WV-03: The National Journal reports that the DCCC will launch a $200,000 TV and radio buy here for the first two weeks of October, making this their first investment in this southern West Virginia seat. Meanwhile, Democrat Richard Ojeda has another ad where he speaks to the camera and tells the audience that Republican Carol Miller is attacking his military record and patriotism. Ojeda declares, "How dare she. A millionaire who has enjoyed a life of privilege under the very freedoms that I have fought for."
● House: Politico reports that the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund has increased its ad buys in a number of races even as they've triaged Colorado's 6th and Michigan's 8th. They say the super PAC has added $5 million to the Los Angeles media market, which covers a number of competitive Southern California races. They've also thrown down an additional $1 million in Wisconsin's 1st, where Speaker Paul Ryan is retiring. Furthermore, they also added $200,000 to defend Rep. David Young in Iowa's 3rd, and $225,000 to protect the open New Mexico's 2nd.
- AZ-08: Lake Research Partners (D) for Hiral Tipirneni: Debbie Lesko (R-inc): 48, Hiral Tipirneni (D): 44 (August: 49-40 Lesko)
- CA-22: SurveyUSA for KFSN-TV: Devin Nunes (R-inc): 55, Andrew Janz (D): 41
- OK-05: VCreek/AMG (R) for Steve Russell: Steve Russell (R-inc): 50, Kendra Horn (D): 37 (Early September: 49-35 Russell)
Lesko beat Tipirneni 52-48 in the April special election, a very underwhelming performance for a seat that backed Trump 58-37. Major outside groups haven't aired any ads here.
This is the first independent poll we've seen for California's 22nd District. A mid-September Janz internal gave Nunes a smaller 50-44 lead.
We're not sure why Russell has released not one but two internal polls in a seat that hasn't been on either party's target list. It's possible that outgoing GOP Gov. Mary Fallin's extreme unpopularity has some Republicans a little nervous about this Oklahoma City seat, and Russell is trying to project confidence in a district that backed Trump 53-40.