Our race ratings: Senate | Governor | House
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.
● PA-07: You're a Republican who's down in the polls, trails in fundraising, and is trying to hold an open seat that favored Hillary Clinton in what has turned out to be a very difficult year for your party, so what do you do? Obviously, you file a lawsuit four weeks before Election Day reminding everyone that you were placed on leave by your former employer earlier this year over allegations you committed sexual misconduct.
So yeah, that's what Marty Nothstein did on Wednesday, suing both the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, where he'd been executive director, as well as the Morning Call, the newspaper that originally reported the story, for conspiring to defame him as "part of a political smear campaign designed to influence the election." The president of the velodrome, as the cycling center is commonly known, strongly denied Nothstein's charges, as did the Morning Call, which said it "stands by its reporting."
Defamation cases like this rarely succeed, especially when brought by public figures, who face a high burden of proof. And Nothstein certainly is one: In addition to running for Congress, he's an Olympic gold medalist and chair of the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners. If there's a motive here beyond pure pique, it's hard to see what it might be, unless Nothstein thinks he can gin up the Trumpist base by painting himself as a victim of the media.
It also might be pure desperation. Recently, the NRCC said it had reserved $1.5 million in TV time to help Nothstein but wouldn’t say when it would start advertising. Now Bloomberg reports that the committee was supposed to go up on Oct. 2, but more than a week later, nothing has aired. Meanwhile, the DCCC is running ads on behalf of Democrat Susan Wild, who had the airwaves to herself in September. With so little time left, it's beginning to smell like the GOP is preparing to triage this race.
You can keep track of all the $1 million-plus House fundraising quarters announced so far right here.
● AZ-Sen: DefendArizona has added another $1.1 million to their ad buy to aid Republican Martha McSally. Their new ad falsely claims that McSally's 2017 vote for Donald Trump's bill to repeal Obamacare, which they don't mention by name, wouldn't have ended coverage protections for those with pre-existing health conditions.
But the truth is that Trumpcare really would end that protection because it would remove the requirement that the insurance plans actually be affordable, effectively allowing insurers to deny coverage via exclusionary pricing. Furthermore the ad baselessly claims Sinema favors a "Bernie Sanders-style government takeover of health care," even though Medicare-for-All wouldn't do that and Sinema doesn't even support it anyway.
● MT-Sen: The conservative Senate Leadership Fund has focused on other Senate races at the expense of this contest, but Politico reports that they've booked $1 million in TV time for the week of Oct. 23.
● NE-Sen: Despite running in a very red state that few observers view as being competitive, Republican Sen. Deb Fischer is running her first negative ad against Democrat Jane Raybould. The spot features men who say they're members of the Lincoln firefighters union, and they accuse Raybould of failing to stand up for first-responders while on the Lincoln City Council, emphasizing the union's endorsement of Fischer.
- AZ-Sen: OH Predictive Insights (R) for ABC15: Martha McSally (R): 47, Kyrsten Sinema 41 (Sept: 49-46 McSally)
- MO-Sen: Ipsos for Reuters and the University of Virginia: Josh Hawley (R): 45, Claire McCaskill (D-inc): 44
- NV-Sen: Marist for NBC: Dean Heller (R-inc): 44, Jackie Rosen (D): 42, Tim Hagan (L): 8
- OH-Sen: Suffolk University for the Cincinnati Enquirer: Sherrod Brown (D-inc): 54, Jim Renacci (R-inc): 36 (June: 53-37 Brown)
- WI-Sen: Marquette: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): 53, Leah Vukmir (R): 43 (Sept.: 53-42 Baldwin)
GOP pollster OH Predictive Insights continues to give Republican Martha McSally by far her best results, with their 47-41 edge being the largest that anyone has found for her in the entire race. Almost all other polls since the Aug. 28 primary have found Sinema with a modest lead.
● Senate, House: EMILY's list has made a new $4.2 million expenditure to help Democrats in several key congressional races, with the money being spent on a combination of ads and mail:
- AZ-Sen: $156,000 against Martha McSally (R)
- MO-Sen: $2.4 million against Josh Hawley (R)
- IL-13: $476,000 against Rodney Davis (R-inc)
- NC-02: $209,000 for Linda Coleman (D)
- NC-13: $123,000 against Ted Budd (R-inc)
- NM-02: $260,000 against Yvette Herrell (R)
- TX-07: $438,000 against John Culberson (R-inc)
Meanwhile, With Honor Fund, which is supporting a bipartisan slate of candidates, laid down more money to elect two Florida Republicans:
- FL-06: $280,000 for Michael Waltz (R)
- FL-18: $280,000 for Brian Mast (R-inc)
● CT-Gov: Quinnipiac's newest poll of their home state gives Democrat Ned Lamont a 47-39 lead over Republican Bob Stefanowski, with independent Oz Griebel taking 11. Lamont led Stefanowski by a larger 46-33 margin in their August survey, while Griebel earned just 4. A mid-September poll from Sacred Heart University gave Lamont a similar 43-37 lead, with 6 going to an unnamed "someone else."
Stefanowski's allies at the RGA aren't deterred, though, and the CT Mirror reports that they've sent another $1 million to their state affiliate Change PAC. By contrast, the DGA has only sent $125,000 to their state organization. The reason for the disparity likely is that the very wealthy Lamont has poured millions into his campaign while Stefanowski has only contributed $250,000 of his own money during the general election, so national Democrats can afford to redirect their resources to other contests.
The RGA's aid is certainly helping Stefanowski not get badly outspent: The Mirror reports that, while Lamont is outspending the Republican $500,000 to $150,000 on TV this week, Change PAC is spending $300,000 on its own ads.
● FL-Gov: As Hurricane Michael has been battering Florida's panhandle and western coast, Republican Ron DeSantis and the GOP are running ads against Democrat Andrew Gillum in the media markets in the path of the storm, trying to tie him to the FBI investigation into Tallahassee municipal government corruption, even though there's been no indication that Gillum is the subject of their investigation.
Tallahassee is poised to bear the brunt of the storm, and Gillum has been focusing on his mayoral duties of helping to protect the city. Democrats and former FEMA head Craig Fugate have lambasted Republicans for taking advantage of the crisis to score political points.
● ME-Gov: The state Republican Party has launched what the Bangor News reports is a $50,000 TV ad that aims to help independent Terry Hayes take some Democratic voters from Democratic nominee Janet Mills.
The commercial first hits Mills as a career politician who wants to raise taxes. The narrator then declares that Hayes is a "liberal" who "supports universal health care and far-left environmental policies and regulations," which is language designed to make Hayes more appealing to Democrats and less appealing to Republicans. It then praises Republican Shawn Moody as a small businessman who wants to create jobs and invest in schools.
● NM-Gov: Local political writer Joe Monahan reports that of Save the Children Action Network, the nonprofit's political arm, will launch a $415,000 TV buy in support of Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham.
● RI-Gov: Republican Allan Fung recently received $1.2 million from the state's matching funds program, though he still trails Democrat Gina Raimondo $1.4 million to $824,000 in cash-on-hand for the final month of the race. Raimondo, who is not participating in the program, raised $440,000 from Sept. 5 to Oct. 8, while Fung took in around $100,000 from other sources. Raimondo's allies at the DGA also recently contributed another $1 million to their state affiliate, and WPRI's Ted Nesi says they've committed twice as much money to this race as the RGA has.
Meanwhile, conservative independent Joe Trillo has $209,000 in the bank after self-funding another $221,000 over the last month. Trillo, a former Republican state representative and 2016 Trump state co-chair, is competing for some of the same hardcore conservative voters that Fung needs to win, and he could end up costing the GOP a win in this blue state: A mid-September poll from Fleming and Associates gave Raimondo a 43-36 lead over Fung, while Trillo grabbed 7 percent.
Trillo also generated some attention on Wednesday when he went on WPRO's morning show and host Gene Valicenti revealed that the candidate had pleaded no contest to simple assault back in the 1970s for hitting a teenager who lived next door; that boy was Nicholas Mattiello, who is now the Democratic speaker of the state House.
Trillo, who was in his 30s at the time, recounted on the program that Mattiello was one of several local boys who was pounding on another neighbor's door trying to get in, and that there was a frightened young girl in the home. Trillo says he waved his arms to try to get them to go away and accidentally hit Mattiello in the process. Mattiello's parents pressed charges, but the candidate says he was never fined and the case went away after a year since he stayed out of trouble. Court records also show that the police charged Trillo with assault back in 1975, and he was found not guilty about 18 months later; the campaign spokesperson said Trillo "believes it's the same case."
Trillo said on Wednesday that while he wishes he hadn't "accidentally came in contact with Nicholas Mattiello, I know I did the right thing, trying to protect the frightened young girl." Mattiello also said he only "vaguely recall[s] an incident that took place well over 40 years ago," and called Trillo "a friend and a good person."
Trillo also used the opportunity to accuse Fung's campaign of employing a "dirty trick" and leaking the old story. The independent also used the opportunity to tell listeners that it was time to "talk about the night that Allan Fung killed a person on 95, and shot the person in the air 96 feet," and that "[w]e don't know whether Allan Fung was drunk, was on drugs, we don't know anything about it, and Allan Fung doesn't want to talk about it."
Back during his unsuccessful 2014 campaign, Fung had revealed that when he was in college in 1989, he was responsible for killing another student. Fung, who reached an out-of-court settlement with the family, said four years ago he had "lost consciousness" while driving but that drugs and alcohol were not involved. Fung was very unhappy that Trillo brought up the incident on Wednesday, and he responded by calling his rival "unhinged" and added, "You have someone in his 30's slapping, punching, whatever, a 13 year old kid. That's not a laughing matter."
- AZ-Gov: OH Predictive Insights (R) for the Arizona Capitol Times: Doug Ducey (R-inc): 54, David Garcia (D): 37
- GA-Gov: Public Policy Polling (D) for Georgia Engaged: Stacey Abrams (D): 46, Brian Kemp (R): 46
- IL-Gov: Anzalone Liszt Grove (D) for Forward Illinois: J.B. Pritzker (D): 48, Bruce Rauner (R-inc): 32, Sam McCann (C): 4, Kash Jackson (L): 3
- IL-Gov: Ipsos for Reuters and the University of Virginia: J.B. Pritzker (D): 50, Bruce Rauner (R-inc): 30
- IL-Gov: Victory Research (R): J.B. Pritzker (D): 47, Bruce Rauner (R-inc): 32 (Aug.: 41-30 Pritzker)
- MD-Gov: Abt Associates for the Washington Post and the University of Maryland: Larry Hogan (R-inc): 58, Ben Jealous (D): 38 (June: 51-39 Hogan)
- MD-Gov: Gonzales Research: Larry Hogan (R-inc): 54, Ben Jealous (D): 36 (Aug.: 52-36 Hogan)
- NV-Gov: Marist for NBC: Adam Laxalt (R): 44, Steve Sisolak (D): 40, Jared Lord (L): 8
- OH-Gov: Suffolk University for the Cincinnati Enquirer: Richard Cordray (D): 46, Mike DeWine (R): 40 (June: 43-36 Cordray)
- RI-Gov: University of New Hampshire for Providence Journal/RIPR/ABC6: Gina Raimondo (D-inc): 48, Allan Fung 34 (R):, Joe Trillo (I): 5
- WI-Gov: Marquette: Scott Walker (R-inc): 47, Tony Evers (D): 46, Phil Anderson (L): 5 (Sept.: 49-44 Evers)
PPP's first Georgia poll this cycle confirms what other pollsters have found: Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are in a tight battle ahead of November, and there's a strong chance neither will win the outright majority needed to avoid a Dec. 4 runoff.
In Ohio, Suffolk gives Democrat Richard Cordray a surprisingly sizable 46-40 lead. However, that's similar to their 43-36 Cordray edge in their June survey, and both now and then, other pollsters haven't been so sanguine about Cordray's chances of defeating Republican Mike DeWine, who held a 44-42 lead in the Daily Kos Elections polling average before this latest survey was included.
Finally, Marquette's Wisconsin poll is the first publicly released poll since the Aug. 14 primary to find vulnerable Republican Gov. Scott Walker with any lead whatsoever. Indeed, the only three surveys this entire year that have had Walker either tied with or ahead of Democrat Tony Evers were also by Marquette. Marquette is a very well-regarded pollster in the Badger State, and it's possible they're picking up on something other outfits are missing, but it's also just as plausible that they're underestimating Evers' chances this November.
● AZ-02: Both the Arizona Republic and the National Journal report that the NRCC has canceled all its ad buys from Oct. 16 to Election Day, which is a very bad sign for Republican Lea Marquez Peterson.
This Tucson seat, which swung from 50-48 Romney to 50-45 Clinton, has looked like a promising Democratic pickup opportunity for a while, and the only poll we've seen in months gave Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick a 50-39 lead. The NRCC has spent $838,000 here so far, but no other major GOP outside groups have run spots, so it looks like Marquez Peterson is being left to fend for herself.
● AZ-09: Thanks to some decent fundraising, physician Steve Ferrara has run a more credible campaign than your typical Republican swimming upstream for a Democratic-held open seat this year. But in newly published remarks about government assistance programs that he made to a group of college Republicans last month, Ferrara showed he's just like every other member of his party in his contempt for the less fortunate:
"It's worse than a child, you've relegated them to the status of a pet. Right? I mean, honestly. Because if you can't feed yourself, like—we all love our pets. But if you don't put the food down for them, you don't put the roof over their head, they would starve, right? And that's essentially what you've done to poor people with these programs."
Ferrara is a serious underdog against Democrat Greg Stanton, who stepped down as Phoenix mayor earlier this year, particularly since Arizona's 9th reacted badly to Trump, voting for Hillary Clinton by a 55-38 margin after supporting Barack Obama by a considerably narrower 51-47. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race Safe Democratic, and with Ferrara making comments like these, that's not about to change.
● CA-45: The political arm of the National Association of Realtors is spending $875,000 on a TV buy in support of Democrat Katie Porter. As we recently noted, GOP Rep. Mimi Walters voted for the leadership's tax bill over the vocal objections of real estate interest groups, and both state and national realtor groups are spending heavily against her this year.
● FL-26, PA-01: Everytown for Gun Safety, which was founded by and is largely funded by billionaire Mike Bloomberg, has endorsed GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida's 26th District and GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania's 1st District. That comes despite the former New York City mayor's announcement on Wednesday that he was rejoining the Democratic Party and his earlier decision to pump $100 million into helping Democrats flip Congress this year.
● MN-01, NC-09: The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund is out with their first ads in two competitive races in open House seats.
The group is joining the battle in Minnesota's 1st District, where a number of other outside groups on both sides have been advertising. The only poll we've seen here was a late August poll from Republican Jim Hagedorn that gave him a big 47-33 lead over Democrat Dan Feehan. While Team Blue never responded with better numbers, CLF's decision to get involved here at a time when they've been making cuts in other battleground districts is at least a good indication that they don't think Hagedorn is anywhere near this far ahead.
Over in North Carolina's 9th, both the CLF and DCCC are making their first buys here. The Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill says the size-of-the-buy for the CLF is $1 million, while the DCCC is spending $222,000. Yahoo! News recently reported that there were no major outside buys on either side in September, though the Democratic group Patriot Majority started a buy in early October. It's actually a bit surprising that we've seen so little action until now, since polls have found a competitive contest for months between Democrat Dan McCready and Mark Harris. Yahoo! News says that McCready ran six times as many TV ads as Harris last month.
● NJ-11: A recent Yahoo! News article on House ad reservations revealed that the only major national party group with anything reserved for October in the open GOP-held 11th District is the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC. The 11th backed Trump 49-48, but this is just the latest sign that Republicans aren't confident that Republican Jay Webber can hold the seat against Democrat Mikie Sherrill.
● NM-02: The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund booked $700,000 in ad time weeks ago to defend this open 50-40 Trump seat, and they're now airing their first ad. This contest has attracted a good deal of national money over the last few weeks, and it's about to get even more. On Tuesday, a large coalition of progressive organizations announced they would spend $1 million on TV and digital ads in support of Democrat Xochitl Torres Small. Their first spot is available here.
● TX-23: The National Journal reports that the NRCC has canceled all their TV reservations here from Oct. 16 to Election Day, and unlike in AZ-02, it's because they feel good about this race. A September Siena poll gave GOP Rep. Will Hurd a 51-43 lead over Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, while the NRCC's allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund recently released their own poll giving Hurd a huge 55-30 lead. Democratic groups haven't released better numbers, and ominously, the DCCC and House Majority PAC have barely spent anything here. (EMILY's List has spent $550,000 for Ortiz Jones, though.)
● VA-05: Republican Denver Riggleman should probably stick to Bigfoot erotica rather than discussing human women. At a debate this week with Democrat Leslie Cockburn, the candidates were asked how they'd reduce the rates of sexual assault in the U.S. Riggleman's response, in classic GOP fashion, was to put the burden on victims:
"As far as what's going on on campus … I think a lot of it comes to educating females, right, specifically in the fraternities and sororities that they're a part of," Riggleman said.
While Riggleman demonstrated once again that Republican politicians are incapable of talking about rape without saying the wrong thing, he's still the heavy favorite to hold this open seat, which voted 53-42 for Trump, for the GOP. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race Likely Republican.
● VA-07: Oh, you have got to be kidding us. Republican Rep. Dave Brat tweeted out a weird new attack ad on Tuesday claiming that his Democratic opponent, Abigail Spanberger, was "caught on tape at a Dave Brat town hall shouting him down and calling for tax increases." But the video, quite literally, shows absolutely nothing of the sort.
Rather, it features footage of the event where Brat called out various questions to the audience, like, "How many people want to see individual income tax rate reductions for you in this room?" ("No!") and "How many people want to see tax increases to fund more programs?" ("Yes!") Spanberger, who happened to be seated in the front row, is shown nodding and occasionally answering along with fellow attendees.
It's quite remarkable, then, that you can hear Brat's voice with crystalline clarity throughout the spot (which is probably appearing online rather than on TV). At no point does anyone in the audience, Spanberger included, "shout him down." Indeed, he was the one who solicited feedback from the crowd—and obviously didn't like what he heard. No surprise, though, that a Republican congressman views anyone expressing an opinion contrary to conservative belief as an attempt to silence him. That's simply GOP orthodoxy at this point.
● WV-03: Democrat Richard Ojeda's latest TV ad continues his line of attack against politicians who have enabled pharmaceutical companies to create the opioid abuse crisis for profit. Ojeda speaks to the camera to blast the McKesson Corporation, citing a local news article that says the company dumped 5 million pain pills into a town of only 400 people in the 3rd District over a period of just two years. In closing, Ojeda excoriates politicians who are in cahoots with drug company lobbyists and says he won't be afraid to take them on.
Alaska Survey Research told us that they identified Galvin, who won the Democratic primary even though she isn't registered with either party, as an independent. Galvin will be listed on the ballot with a U next to her name for undeclared, as well as an "Alaska Democratic Party Nominee" to the right. (Young, by contrast, has an (R) next to his name, with an "Alaska Republican Party Nominee" to his right.)
ASR found Young well ahead in their late September poll, and it's far from clear what could have caused the race to get so much closer, especially since the same sample found Republican Mike Dunleavy doing even better in the gubernatorial contest than he was weeks ago. The group says they'll do three more tracking polls, so we'll get another look here soon.
The only other poll we've seen from Florida's 6th was a mid-September St. Pete Polls survey that had Walz up 48-43. So far, major outside groups on both sides still haven't run ads in this Orlando area seat, which moved from 52-47 Romney to 57-40 Trump.
Barr released his poll days after McGrath unveiled a survey giving her a 51-44 lead.
Both parties have pretty much left Rothfus for dead in Pennsylvania's 17th, and this poll isn't going to do anything to change that perception.
Comstock released this poll after several independent surveys showed her in bad shape, but a narrow lead in a McLaughlin survey really shouldn't give her much reason for optimism. McLaughlin has a well-deserved reputation for wildly inaccurate polls, including in Virginia, where their 2014 GOP primary survey found then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor beating Dave Brat 62-28 shortly before he lost 56-44. And oh yeah, McLaughlin was the pollster for Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orban, a far-right anti-Semite who has undermined democracy in his country, during this spring's election.
The NRCC is the only major GOP group that hasn't given up on Comstock, but if this is the best she's got, they may be regretting that choice.