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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.
● IA-01: This is precisely why we caution that, as long as there's time left on the clock, no triage decision is final: Though both the NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund had seemingly abandoned GOP Rep. Rod Blum by never making any TV ad reservations, the CLF on Tuesday announced it was jumping in with a $1 million buy attacking Democrat Abby Finkenauer for the final weeks of the election. For its part, the DCCC, which reportedly canceled almost all of its reservations in Iowa's 1st District last month, isn't quitting the race either and is going up with a new negative hit on Blum.
It's hard to say what's going on here. Just days after releasing a survey from The Polling Company that showed Finkenauer ahead just 44-43, Blum put out another poll from the same firm on Tuesday that has his opponent in front 45-43. It's not clear why Blum would share two similar polls back to back like this, especially since the second one was a touch worse for him, though perhaps he wants to argue that the first set of results weren't a fluke.
The CLF's private polling, at least, likely shows something similar, but there's little to compare this data to. The only survey we've seen from a reputable outfit, a Siena poll showing Finkenauer up by a sizable 52-37 margin, is now a month old. It's certainly possible this race has narrowed, but it's still notable that even Blum's own polls have him trailing. It may therefore be the case that this late rescue attempt is among the least-bad options for a Republican Party that is trying to hang on to its majority while facing a challenging map.
You can keep up with all the latest triage moves by bookmarking our tracker.
● AZ-Sen: Majority Forward and VoteVets are making a $1 million ad buy that features retired Rear Admiral Mike Mathis declaring Republican Rep. Martha McSally "seems to believe she can say whatever she wants, as long as she shows a picture of herself, in uniform." Mathis blasts her for lying about voting to take away healthcare protections, including those that affect veterans.
Indeed, Mathis was hardly exaggerating judging by Monday's debate, which is the only one scheduled between McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. McSally outright accused Sinema of saying, "It's okay to commit treason," over her 2003 statements opposing the Bush administration's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Sinema responded to by calling out McSally for running a smear campaign.
● ND-Sen: On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp apologized and issued a retraction over a newspaper ad where "several of the women's names who were provided to us did not authorize their names to be shared or were not survivors of abuse."
The ad was an open letter ostensibly signed by 127 women who identified themselves as survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape that rebuked Republican Kevin Cramer's offensive comments on sexual assault. However, one woman posted the letter to Facebook and said that her name had been shared without her permission, while another said that "a lot of these people listed, including me, did not give anyone permission for our names to be posted." It's not clear how many of the women named had not actually signed the letter.
Heitkamp said the campaign had worked with victims advocates to find women who were willing to lend their names to the letter, and that the misused names seemed to come from a Facebook post the campaign had not verified. Heitkamp, a former state attorney general, took responsibility and said she'd "spent a great deal of my professional time working with victims and the worst thing you can do is take away their privacy."
● IN-Sen: Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly's latest TV ad finds him triangulating against both his left and right flanks as he decries the "socialists" trying to "turn health care over to the government" and those on the hard-right who want to gut protections for pre-existing conditions. Donnelly denounces the "radical left" for wanting to "eliminate ICE" as he calls for building Trump's border wall, but Donnelly also blasts those supposedly on both extremes who want to "cut defense spending." Meanwhile, the NRSC has debuted a TV ad that attacks Donnelly for opposing Brett Kavanaugh and ties him to "coastal liberals."
● MT-Sen: The NRSC has launched a TV ad blasting Democratic Sen. Jon Tester for opposing Brett Kavanaugh, featuring footage of Trump calling out Tester.
● NJ-Sen: Republican Bob Hugin's latest TV ad revives six-year-old anonymous allegations that Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez solicited sex with underage girls in the Dominican Republic. However, as Politico notes, these accusations came up in Menendez's 2012 re-election race yet mainstream media outlets stayed away from the unsubstantiated claims, and several of the women in question later said they had been paid to lie about him. Indeed, ABC News previously reported, "None of the women could produce identity cards with their names, and they all provided the same story almost word for word, as if they had been coached."
Meanwhile, in a sign Democrats might be concerned about this race, Senate Majority PAC is jumping into the Garden State with a $3 million ad buy to oppose Hugin. Their spot ties Hugin to Trump, calling him a big pharmaceutical company CEO who backed Trump's plan to give billions in corporate tax cuts to drug companies and to remove protections for pre-existing conditions. They skewer him for price gouging patients on life-saving cancer drugs all while walking away with $150 million at their expense.
● NV-Sen: The Senate Leadership Fund is putting $2.3 million behind a TV spot that revs up the xenophobia by claiming Democrat Jacky Rosen favors policies that let the gang MS-13 and "criminal illegal immigrants" into the country, arguing she stands with Nancy Pelosi.
● OH-Sen: Republican Jim Renacci and his allies have been attempting to smear Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown over alleged domestic violence stemming from his divorce three decades ago, and Brown is now airing a TV ad in response that features his ex-wife, Larke Recchie, who has publicly defended him ever since his 1992 House campaign. Recchie states, "Divorce can be difficult and ours was no different. But the political attacks against our family are just wrong." She adds, "I understand politics can sometimes be nasty, but Jim Renacci should be ashamed."
● TN-Sen: The Senate Leadership Fund is putting $1.6 million behind a TV ad that mirrors a recent spot by Republican Marsha Blackburn that alleges Democrat Phil Bredesen covered up sexual harassment claims when he was governor. Bredesen recently went up with a response ad, which featured several women who had worked for him labeling Blackburn a liar. They contend that the former governor "always had a zero tolerance policy" and only shredded documents to protect the privacy of the victims.
Both surveys for The Polling Company (Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway's old firm) for the conservative group Citizens United (yes, the Citizens United) are, in fact, a little better for Democrats than the last GOP polls we'd seen. An early October poll for the conservative group Missouri Rising had Hawley up 52-44, while an NRSC survey of West Virginia from last week had Manchin up just 41-40.
● OR-Gov: Republican Knute Buehler, who has attempted to portray himself as more moderate than the typical Republican, has come out in favor of letting parents opt out of getting their kids vaccinated, even if they don't have medical reason for doing so. Buehler's position is a reversal of one he held just as recently as 2015, when he advocated for a bill to remove the existing non-medical exemptions from school vaccinations.
It's hard to say how this position might affect his standing against Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who holds a modest 45-41 lead in the Daily Kos Elections polling average. As a physician himself, it's surprising to see Buehler take a stance that is so wildly at odds with what public health professionals recommend to prevent the resurgence of formerly contained infections diseases. However, Oregon has seen a growing trend of parents who are refusing to vaccinate their kids for non-medical reasons, and even heavily Democratic Portland voted against water fluoridation as recently as 2013, despite experts widely considering it safe and beneficial for public health.
● SC-Gov: The RGA is going up with what appears to be the first major outside TV ad in the general election between GOP Gov. Henry McMaster and Democrat James Smith. The ad hits Smith for endorsing Hillary Clinton and wanting to expand Obamacare in the state, although the narrator of course doesn't mention that the latter means taking federal money for Medicaid expansion, which is usually popular when polled even in red states like South Carolina.
● SD-Gov: Democrat Billie Sutton has gone up on the air with a TV ad that rebuts recent attacks against him by Republican Rep. Kristi Noem and calls them an untrue effort to make him into Hillary Clinton. Sutton highlights how he "grew up on [his] family ranch ... working cattle, riding horses, and going to church on Sunday." He calls himself a "pro-gun fiscal conservative" who opposes a state income tax and will "work with anyone to grow South Dakota's economy, including President Trump."
- OR-Gov: DHM Research for Oregon Public Broadcasting: Kate Brown (D-Inc): 40, Knute Beuhler (R): 35
- SC-Gov: Trafalgar Group (R): Henry McMaster (R-inc): 56, James Smith (D) 32 (early Oct: 51-37 McMaster)
● CA-22: Last month, Esquire reported that GOP Rep. Devin Nunes' parents and brother had quietly moved the family dairy farm from the Central Valley to Iowa all the way back in 2007, something the congressman never publicly acknowledged. Nunes is now out with a commercial where he argues he, his wife, and his children very much live in the valley. The narrator then declares that "$10 million are being spent trying to silence" and smear Nunes, and that and "his wife, mother, daughters, nieces, even his 98-year old grandmother are being smeared, slandered and stalked."
● CA-45, NJ-03, NY-11, TX-32, VA-07: The progressive group End Citizens United has launched a $2.5 million ad buy across five seats. Their New Jersey and Virginia spots are available here.
● FL-27: The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund is the first major outside group on either side to go up with a TV spot in this open seat, which looked like a likely Democratic pickup until recently. The Miami Herald reports that they're up with a six-figure TV and digital ad in Spanish against Democrat Donna Shalala.
The spot argues that, while Shalala was president of the University of Miami, she lived in a $9 million mansion while the college "only paid university janitors $7 an hour while denying them health insurance. The scandal made national news and Shalala was called an enemy of the working poor."
Shalala's team pushed back and noted she has the support of the union that represents the janitors. In July, she wrote an op-ed talking about the strike where she said she'd met with some of the janitors recently and "explained how I regret not working to resolve the strike sooner, hoping that the contractor would work out this issue without the University's involvement, but I am heartened that these individuals won their union, as well as wage increases, excellent health care, and job protections."
● KS-02: The NRCC is going up with a rare positive TV ad, praising Republican Steve Watkins' military career. Watkins has been an underwhelming fundraiser (he ended September with just over $150,000 in the bank) and multiple media stories have exposed Watkins as a serial fabricator, so he could use the NRCC's help in generating any positive attention. Meanwhile, the Democratic group Patriot Majority is going up with a new spot hitting Watkins for embellishing his career as a businessman and an adventurer.
● NY-24: The NRCC is launching an ad against Democrat Dana Balter, making this the first time that a major GOP outside group has run a TV spot against her.
This is the same TV ad the group has run in several other House contests, and the only difference is the narrator name-checks Balter instead of a different Democrat. The commercial is set in a world where health care is a "massive government-run system," and it argues that, if the Democrats have their way, people won't be able to see their doctors. (Because, again, in the GOP's nihilistic worldview, universal health care means no health care at all.) We do not know the size of the buy, but it's notable the GOP is spending anything to protect GOP Rep. John Katko in a contest where they've been acting quite bullish about his chances.
● NJ-05: The Democratic group House Majority PAC is spending $585,000 on a buy in support of Rep. Josh Gottheimer in a contest that has otherwise attracted little outside attention. Their ad argues that Republican John McCann has spent his time in government finding ways to get rich while raising taxes on his constituents.
● OH-14, PA-01: The GOP super PAC Defending Main Street is spending $125,000 on a buy in support of Ohio Rep. David Joyce, and another $150,000 to aid Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.
● PA-17: While most major groups from both parties have written off GOP Rep Keith Rothfus' chances against Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, the Democratic group Patriot Majority is still going up with a spot here for $150,000.
● TX-07: Giffords PAC is spending $1.1 million on a new buy against GOP Rep. John Culberson.
● TX-23: House Majority PAC has launched a $475,000 TV buy against GOP Rep. Will Hurd in a race where national Democrats hadn't been advertising much (until Tuesday, HMP had spent only $54,000 in this race, while the DCCC had spent nothing). The commercial, which is available in both English and Spanish, argues that in Congress, the incumbent is just "part of the herd" and a loyal GOP vote.
● UT-04: The Democratic group Patriot Majority has launched a spot hitting GOP Rep. Mia Love over a campaign finance scandal. The narrator declares that Love "admitted to gaming the system and collected more than $1 million in illegal campaign cash." She then says that Love won't give back the cash, but "was forced to pay back taxpayer money she used to attend a posh D.C. party."
Last month, CNN reported that Love had illegally raised $1.15 million in campaign funds designated for this year's primary even though she didn't even have a primary (Utah lets candidates choose whether to contest the primary or the convention). The posh D.C. party" the ad mentions is a reference to a 2015 story where Love was dinged for billing taxpayers $1,160 for traveling to D.C. to attend the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, which was not legal because members can't spend government money on purely social events.
A few months later, Love had to reimburse the treasury again for receiving reimbursements for two plane trips when she'd only flown just once. Love offered confusing explanations for both omissions, and her spokesperson even admitted he didn't know what she was doing when it came to the flights. Democrats tried raising those issues during her 2016 campaign, but she ended up beating Democrat Doug Owens 54-41. However, Patriot Majority seems to think that the issue can still harm Love, especially when paired with her more recent campaign finance problems.
- AZ-06: Siena for the New York Times: David Schweikert (R-inc): 50, Anita Malik (D) 36.
- FL-26: Mason-Dixon for Telemundo 51 Miami: Carlos Curbelo (R-inc): 46, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D): 45
- FL-27: Anzalone Liszt Grove (D) for Donna Shalala: Donna Shalala (D): 44, Maria Elvira Salazar (R): 39
- MI-06: DCCC (in-house): Fred Upton (R-inc): 49, Matt Longjohn (D): 46 (Aug.: 48-42 Upton)
- NY-22: The Polling Company (R) for Citizens United: Claudia Tenney (R-inc): 50, Anthony Brindisi (D): 42
- NY-27: Siena for Spectrum News: Chris Collins (R-inc): 46, Nate McMurray (D): 43
- VA-10: Siena for the New York Times: Jennifer Wexton (D): 48, Barbara Comstock (R-inc): 41
- WV-03: Monmouth: Carol Miller (R): 48, Richard Ojeda (D): 45 (June: 43-41 Ojeda)
Back in June, the House Ethics Committee announced both Schweikert and his chief of staff, Oliver Schwab, were under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics over allegations that Schweikert's campaign paid Schwab considerably more than congressional staffers are allowed to earn in outside income. However, there's been little indication that the story has put this 52-42 Trump seat in play, and this poll doesn't give us much reason for optimism.
This poll from Florida's 27th came just after an independent Mason-Dixon poll showed Salazar up 44-42. Siena is currently in the field here, so we'll have more data soon.
This is the first poll we've seen from New York's 22nd since late August, when Siena gave Brindisi a 46-44 edge. Both parties are continuing to spend plenty of money to win this Utica-area seat, which moved from 49.2-48.8 Romney all the way to 55-39 Trump.
This is the first independent poll we've seen from New York's 27th—the reddest district in the state— where Collins is under indictment. McMurray recently released a survey showing a 42-42 tie.
Polls have consistently shown Wexton well ahead in this Northern Virginia seat, and plenty of Republican strategists keep complaining that the NRCC is wasting money by continuing to spend here.
The last poll we saw out of West Virginia's 3rd was a mid-September DCCC internal that had Ojeda up 48-44, though a Siena poll from around that time had Miller up 48-40. Siena is currently working on their second survey here.
We have some reports of the DCCC and House Majority PAC reservation changes in several seats. Unfortunately for Team Blue, it looks like Democrats are scaling back their reservations in a few tough districts in Minnesota, Florida, and Nebraska.
● MN-08, MN-01, MN-02: The situation in Minnesota's 8th is the most disappointing. According to journalist Sam Brodey, the NRCC blasted out an Advertising Analytics email on Tuesday saying that the DCCC had canceled $1.2 million in buys they'd planned to use to defend the 8th and would instead redirect their money to the 1st (another open Democratic seat) and against GOP Rep. Jason Lewis in the 2nd.
The sum could actually be a bit lower, though: The Duluth News Tribune wrote later that same day that the NRCC had "forwarded to media members television scheduling information on Tuesday that seemed to show" the DCCC "moving more than $800,000 in advertising spending away from the 8th District and into Minnesota Districts 1 and 2."
Whatever the number is, the DCCC didn't deny the reports that they're taking money out of the 8th. A recent Siena poll gave Republican Pete Stauber a hefty 49-34 lead over Democrat Joe Radinovich, and while that margin might have been a bit optimistic for the GOP, this doesn't look like a move Team Blue is making this move out of a position of strength.
Daily Kos Elections had rated all three of these Minnesota seats as Tossups, but in light of these latest developments, we're moving the 8th District to Lean Republican, making this the first Democratic-held seat we think Republicans are favored to pick up in November. This does not, however, mean that Radinovich is without hope, just that Stauber has the edge. At the same time, it's worth noting there are very few other districts like this one: Only 13 Democrats sit in seats that Donald Trump won, and only one other open seat (as it happens, Minnesota's 1st) is comparably red. This fate, therefore, is unlikely to befall many other Democratic districts.
● FL-16, FL-15: In Florida, Medium Buying reports that the DCCC has canceled TV time it had booked in the Tampa media market for the final week of the campaign. All of GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan's 16th District and close to 90 percent of the open 15th District are located in the Tampa market.
It's not clear exactly how much advertising was cut for either seat, but it appears the bulk of the cuts were in the 15th. Advertising Analytics tweeted on Monday afternoon that they'd seen $816,000 cut from the 15th so far, while the campaign of 16th District Democratic nominee David Shapiro had said just before the cancellations that the DCCC had $114,000 in planned buys there. However, since we're working with such disparate information, it's hard to know exactly what the DCCC is deducting from each seat; it's also possible the cancellations are coming from a reservation they had yet to allocate to either district.
Whatever the case, the move signals a lack of confidence in flipping either district. In recent polls, both Buchanan in the 16th and Republican Ross Spano in the 15th have led. Both, however, were always reaches: Daily Kos Elections rates both seats "Likely Republican."
● NE-02: Finally, House Majority PAC told Roll Call Tuesday that they were pulling their ad reservations for Nebraska's 2nd and directing them towards Iowa's 3rd, which looks more winnable. (Though a state line separate them, both seats are in the Omaha media market.)
In Nebraska's 2nd, a late September Siena poll gave Republican Rep. Don Bacon a 51-42 lead over Democrat Kara Eastman, while Bacon's own poll also showed him up by 9; Eastman responded with a poll that gave Bacon a smaller 49-45 edge. Iowa's 3rd, by contrast, has looked like a competitive fight between GOP Rep. David Young and Democrat Cindy Axne for a long time. We rate Nebraska's 2nd as Lean Republican and Iowa's 3rd a Tossup.
● Deaths: Former Sen. Walter "Dee" Huddleston, a Kentucky Democrat who served from 1973 until he lost to now-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 1984, died Tuesday at the age of 92.
Huddleston, who served in the Army during World War II, worked for several state radio stations and rose to become president of the Kentucky Broadcasters Association, and he said he became interested in politics because candidates often wanted his support. He won an open state Senate in the Elizabethtown area in 1964 and rose to become majority leader.
Huddleston managed Lt. Gov. Wendell Ford's 1971 bid for governor, and after the campaign won, Huddleston announced he would run for an open Senate seat. Huddleston had no trouble winning the Democratic nod and faced former GOP. Gov. Louie Nunn in November. Nunn was hurt by his successful push to raise the sales tax to solve the state's budget problems, and while Richard Nixon carried the state 63-35, Huddleston beat Nunn 51-48.
Huddleston was a reliable ally for Kentucky's coal and tobacco industries, and he helped save the tobacco price support program in 1982. The senator also used his post on the appropriations committee to secure funding for the Cumberland Gap tunnel. While Huddleston opposed abortion rights and pushed for a constitutional amendment to allow prayer in schools, he also backed the Equal Rights Amendment.
In 1978, Huddleston took a risk when he supported the Panama Canal treaties where the U.S. agreed to cede the Canal Zone to Panama. Huddleston said that issue caused him more problems than any other in 1978, but he won re-election 61-37 against GOP state Rep. Louie Guenthner.
However, Huddleston had a much tougher campaign six years later. The senator faced a primary challenge from former Gov. John Y. Brown Jr., who argued he'd be more effective than Huddleston. Brown ended up dropping out weeks before Election Day citing poor health, but Huddleston later said that the aborted primary had made him overconfident in the general election.
The GOP nominated Jefferson County Judge-Executive Mitch McConnell, who led the state's largest county and had been preparing for a campaign since he was re-elected in 1981. McConnell initially tailed badly in the polls, but political strategist Roger Ailes helped devise a memorable TV spot.
The commercial featured bloodhounds searching for an absent Huddleston, whom the hound "narrating" the ad declared was "missing big votes on Social Security, the budget, defense, even agriculture." The hounds ended up arriving at a Los Angeles pool and a beach in Puerto Rico where the ad said Huddleston had just delivered expensive speeches instead of doing his job. The narrator concluded, "We can't find Dee! Maybe we ought to let him make speeches and switch to Mitch!" Huddleston declared that the spot was based on a "false premise," but later admitted he hadn't taken it seriously enough.
McConnell also was aided by ads touting Ronald Reagan's endorsement. Reagan carried Kentucky 60-39 while McConnell unseated Huddleston 49.9-49.5, a margin of just under 5,200 votes. Huddleston never sought elected office again and became an executive at a D.C. consulting firm.
- FL-Sen: New Republican PAC (against Bill Nelson (D-inc))
- MT-Sen: Majority Forward and VoteVets ($850,000 buy against Matt Rosendale (R))
- NV-Sen: Jacky Rosen (D); DSCC (against Dean Heller (R-inc))
- TN-Sen: Majority Forward (against Marsha Blackburn (R)) (here and here)
- WI-Sen: Leah Vukmir (R)
- KS-Gov: RGA (against Laura Kelly (D))
- NV-Gov: Nevada Families First (DGA aligned) (against Adam Laxalt (R)); RGA (against Steve Sisolak (D))
- OH-Gov: Richard Cordray (D) (here and here)
- WI-Gov: Tony Evers (D)
- AZ-02: House Majority PAC ($525,000 buy against Lea Marquez Peterson (R))
- CA-45: Katie Porter (D) and DCCC
- CA-48: Congressional Leadership Fund (against Harley Rouda (D))
- FL-18: DCCC (against Brian Mast (R-inc))
- IA-03: House Majority PAC ($900,000 buy against David Young (R-inc))
- IL-13: EMILY's List (part of $476,000 buy against Rodney Davis (R-inc))
- KS-03: House Majority PAC ($419,000 buy against Kevin Yoder (R-inc))
- KY-06: House Majority PAC ($209,000 buy against Andy Barr (R-inc)); Friends of Racing (for Andy Barr (R-inc))
- ME-02: Patriot Majority (against Bruce Poliquin (R-inc))
- MI-08: Elissa Slotkin (D)
- MN-01: House Majority PAC ($335,000 buy against Jim Hagedorn (R)); DCCC (against Jim Hagedorn (R))
- NC-09: League of Conservation Voters ($677,000 buy against Mark Harris (R))
- NE-02: Congressional Leadership Fund (against Kara Eastman (D))
- MN-03: Dean Phillips (D)
- MN-08: America First Action (part of $1 million buy against Joe Radinovich (D))
- NJ-03: House Majority PAC ($320,000 buy against Tom MacArthur (R-inc))
- TX-23: EMILY's List and AFT Solidarity (against Will Hurd (R-inc))
- WA-08: House Majority PAC and EMILY's List ($667,000 buy against Dino Rossi (R))
- WI-01: Congressional Leadership Fund (against Randy Bryce (D))