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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.
● SD-Gov: On behalf of the Argus Leader and KELO TV, Mason-Dixon is out with the first independent poll of the race for governor of South Dakota, and it shows a 45-45 tie between Democrat Billie Sutton and Republican Kristi Noem. The only other polls we've seen here at all were a pair of Sutton internals that showed him going from a 46-42 deficit in late July to a 45-42 lead in late September. Noem hasn't released better numbers, and she's even acknowledged that she didn't anticipate how difficult the general election would be.
Republicans have won every election for South Dakota's governorship stretching back to 1978—the longest such streak in the nation—but Democrats have a much stronger candidate than usual in Sutton, the state Senate minority leader. Sutton has run ads promoting his compelling background: He's a former rodeo star—in a state that loves the sport—who was left paralyzed from the waist down after a rodeo accident a decade ago yet is still able to ride horses thanks to a special saddle.
Noem, who has represented the entire state in the House since the 2010 election, doesn't lack for name recognition, but this poll indicates she's considerably less well-liked than her Democratic rival. Mason-Dixon gives Sutton a 50-24 favorable rating, while Noem has a 44-35 score. Noem began running ads last month arguing that Sutton was too close to national Democrats, but this survey indicates that line of attack wasn't enough to put this contest away. Sutton still needs a lot to go right to make history in this very red state, but this very much looks like the kind of competitive gubernatorial race that South Dakota hasn't seen in decades.
● TX-Sen: What a revolting new low, even for Ted Cruz. After a supporter hollered "Lock him up!" in reference to Beto O'Rourke at a Cruz rally on Tuesday night—obviously for the crime of being a Democrat—Cruz responded, "Well, you know, there's a double-occupancy cell with Hillary Clinton." This is the same Cruz who was just going on about "due process" during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and then, on Wednesday, demanded civility in American politics after a series of bombs were delivered to prominent Democrats. Start by checking yourself, bub.
In Missouri, most polls, including those from GOP firms, have given Hawley a small edge. The only other recent survey we've seen that found Hawley ahead by more than 3 points was an early October poll from the GOP firm McLaughlin & Associates, which is not one of our favorite pollsters.
Frustratingly, this is the first poll we've seen in all of October of the Montana Senate race. It seems too good to be true to hope Tester is ahead by this much, but we need more data.
The Ipsos polls are also a bit wonky. Last month, Ipsos likewise found Democrats doing better in the Texas Senate race than they were in Nevada. We noted at the time that Nevada has been a difficult state to survey in the past, and pollsters have often had trouble reaching the state's highly transient population; polls that are conducted only in English, like this one, have also often understated Democratic support in the Silver State by failing to reach a proper universe of Latino voters.
One other very strange thing in all three states Ipsos polled is how few respondents identified themselves as independents. For instance, in Wisconsin (where Ipsos' survey was generally good for Team Blue), about 570 likely voters were Democrats and 470 were Republicans, but just over 90 were independents—a mere 8 percent of the sample. By contrast, in CNN's 2014 and 2016 Wisconsin exit polls, independents made up 27 and 30 percent of the electorate, respectively. (The Nevada and Texas polls also showed a similarly tiny proportion of independents.)
We're generally reluctant to criticize pollsters based on their party affiliation samples, since voters' party identification can shift based on current events. What may seem like too few Republicans in a poll, for instance, could be the result of voters angry at Trump casting off (if only temporarily) the GOP label. Still, even in these polarized times, it just seems very unlikely that so few voters in each of these three states would identify as independents, and it could indicate that Ipsos' samples are off.
Finally, this is the first poll we've seen giving Morrisey any kind of lead in West Virginia since May, though a late-September poll for a GOP super PAC had a 45-45 tie. Two recent surveys from GOP firms gave Manchin 4- and 5-point leads, while an independent poll from Strategic Research Associates had him ahead by 16.
● FL-Gov: Democrat Andrew Gillum is taking heat for accepting a ticket to see the musical Hamilton in New York two years ago from an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer, according to documents provided to the Florida Commission on Ethics by Adam Corey, a lobbyist and former friend of Gillum's who is reportedly "at the center" of an FBI investigation into corruption in Tallahassee.
Gillum has said that he believed the ticket came from his brother Marcus, but a text message that Corey sent Gillum in August of 2016 said that the ticket came from "Mike Miller," the fake name used by the FBI agent in question. In response to the publication of this text, Gillum still maintains he received his ticket from his brother on the night of the show, and that he "assumed" his brother had paid for it.
Republican Ron DeSantis immediately responded with a statement branding Gillum a liar, but we'll have to wait and see whether DeSantis or his allies actually release any ads about this story.
● LA-Gov: GOP Sen. John Kennedy says he'll announce if he'll mount a 2019 bid against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards before Dec. 1. Kennedy sounds like he's likely to do it, declaring that, while he loves the Senate, it's "hard to stomach what is happening in Louisiana right now." Kennedy also released another poll from SurveyUSA (which usually polls for nonpartisan media clients) that shows him well-positioned to advance through an October 2019 jungle primary and then defeat Edwards in a runoff.
One hypothetical jungle primary scenario has Kennedy and Edwards at 38 and 35 percent, respectively, while wealthy businessman Eddie Rispone (who is the only declared Republican candidate at this point) takes just 5 percent of the vote. In a version with two other Republicans added, state Attorney General Jeff Landry and Rep. Ralph Abraham, it's a similar story. Edward leads Kennedy 36-30, while Landry is a distant third with 8.
In a hypothetical runoff, Kennedy leads Edwards 48-39, which is actually a drop for Kennedy from the 51-37 lead he posted in a June SurveyUSA poll for his campaign. The poll finds Edwards leading Landry 44-39, while the governor also defeats Abraham and Rispone 45-37 and 47-33, respectively.
Meanwhile, Abraham also tells LA Politics that he'll decide whether to run sometime after the midterm elections. For now, Abraham's re-election campaign is running a minute-long biographical TV spot. LA Politics reports that Abraham, who has a very uncompetitive re-election campaign in his northeastern Louisiana seat, is running the commercial in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Alexandria, and Monroe media markets.
Those markets include 82 percent of the state's population, even though some of them are barely in Abraham's district: Baton Rouge, for instance, makes up just 4 percent of his seat. That wouldn't be a wise use of resources if Abraham wanted to just run up the score next month, but it's a good way for him to use his otherwise uneventful congressional campaign as a way to raise his statewide name recognition ahead of a possible 2019 run. His would-be rival Kennedy did something similar three years ago when he used an uncompetitive 2015 re-election campaign for state treasurer as an opportunity to run TV spots ahead of his successful 2016 Senate run.
- FL-Gov: Florida Atlantic University: Andrew Gillum (D): 41, Ron DeSantis (R): 37 (Sept.: 41-39 Gillum)
- KS-Gov: Public Policy Polling (D) for Western States Strategies: Laura Kelly (D): 41, Kris Kobach (R): 41, Greg Orman (I): 10 (Sept.: Kobach 39, Kelly 38, Orman 9)
- NV-Gov: Ipsos for Reuters & UVA: Adam Laxalt (R): 46, Steve Sisolak (D): 41 (Sept.: 43-40 Laxalt)
- OK-Gov: Magellan Strategies (R): Kevin Stitt (R): 51, Drew Edmondson (D): 44
- WI-Gov: Ipsos for Reuters & UVA: Tony Evers (D): 48, Scott Walker (R-inc): 45 (Sept.: 50-43 Evers)
Polls from Kansas have been very consistent: Every single survey we've seen has shown a tight race between Kelly and Kobach, with Orman hovering around 10 percent. PPP also tests out a two-way race without Orman and finds Kelly leading Kobach 48-44. Unfortunately, Orman still shows no sign of ending his campaign.
We discussed some possible issues with the Ipsos surveys in our Senate polls section.
Magellan says it’s not "working for or with any candidates for governor, or any independent expenditure committees with an interest in the Oklahoma election for governor." We've seen two late-October surveys from GOP firms that aren't involved in the race giving Stitt a lead of 4-6 points. The only independent poll we've seen since the primary was a mid-September SoonerPoll that showed Stitt up 47-44.
● ME-02: Maine Republicans really do seem to hate the state's new instant-runoff voting system. At a recent debate, all four candidates in attendance were asked if they'd accept the results of November's election, which will be the first-ever federal race to use an instant runoff. Three of them, including Democrat Jared Golden and the two independents on the ballot, all said they would. But GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin offered a total non-answer, refusing to rule out the possibility that he might challenge the outcome in court.
Several of Poliquin's fellow Republicans expressed similar sentiments ahead of June's gubernatorial primary, and the state Republican Party even filed an unsuccessful lawsuit trying to block implementation of IRV. It wound up being moot because Republican Sean Moody handily won the primary with an outright majority in the first round, but general election polling in Maine's 2nd District is much tighter. Golden currently holds just a 44-43 edge on Poliquin according to our polling average, so it's possible that Poliquin could win a plurality in the first round but that Golden could emerge on top after the runoff results are calculated.
If that happens, expect Republican heads to explode—and another lawsuit to follow. But while the prior suit went nowhere, a new attack on the law could very well succeed at the Supreme Court. That's because Chief Justice John Roberts has made plain his hostility to voter-initiated election laws like this one that pertain to federal elections and were passed at the ballot box (rather than by the legislature), and with Brett Kavanaugh replacing Anthony Kennedy, Roberts likely now has the five votes he needs to strike down such laws.
● MI-06: The Congressional Leadership Fund's new spot against Democrat Matt Longjohn argues that he's "not licensed to practice medicine, but calls himself a doctor." Longjohn, the former national health officer of the YMCA, did earn a medical degree, but he's not licensed to practice. Longjohn says that he's "never once said during this campaign that I am a currently practicing physician."
● MI-08, MN-08, TX-32: America First Action, one of this cycle's deeper-pocketed GOP super PACs, just announced a new round of spending in half a dozen House races. Three involve notable sums. In Michigan's 8th, they're dumping in $650,000; in Minnesota's 8th, $1 million; and in Texas' 32nd, $700,000. The first two are a bit surprising for inverse reasons. Republicans reportedly triaged Michigan's 8th weeks ago, with the Congressional Leadership Fund canceling a major reservation and never reversing course. It's possible, though, that CLF was expecting other groups, including AFA, to make up the slack.
Minnesota's 8th, meanwhile, was rather definitively triaged by the DCCC last week, and no other Democratic organizations have stepped into the breach. It's therefore a bit of a mystery as to why AFA would feel the need to keep pouring it on so heavily here.
● NC-13: Republican Rep. Ted Budd has begun airing a TV ad against Democrat Kathy Manning that is very similar to a previous America First Action spot that Manning's legal team successfully got taken off the air by two local broadcasters for making patently untrue claims about her and her husband, developer Randall Kaplan. Speaking with an upper-class British accent, the narrator claims Manning got more than $30 million dollars, plus more than $2 million a year, in taxpayer money for a "parking deck that nobody needed … filling the Mannings' [sic] swanky hotel and their own French castle."
Of course, just like the previous super PAC ad, this one doesn't even attempt to tell the truth, since that $30 million was what the city of Greensboro was paying to a group of developers led by Kaplan (which Manning has no part in) to reimburse them for shouldering the construction costs of building the parking deck, which the city would fully own and operate. Furthermore, Greensboro would pay more than $2 million annually to operate the deck, but a city official said Kaplan and his fellow developers wouldn't get a dime of that. Lastly, Kaplan promised to donate any profits from the project to a charitable organization.
So why does an ad that is so ridiculously bogus get to stay on TV when a nearly identical version was pulled from the air by the broadcasters themselves for false claims? It's because federal law prevents broadcasters from refusing to run ads from candidates themselves so long as they're paid for, but broadcasters have successfully argued they consequently shouldn't be liable for defamation. However, no such protection exists for third-party groups like America First Action, which is why the threat of a lawsuit alone was enough for those same stations to relent when Manning urged them to drop the third-party ad.
Meanwhile, the NRCC is also making its first ad buy for Budd, and it’s putting $616,000 behind it. There's no copy of those ads available yet.
● NY-01: A super PAC called United We Can has launched a $500,000 TV, digital, and radio buy against GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin. This is the first major outside spending we're aware of in the race for this Long Island seat.
● NY-24: The Congressional Leadership Fund is reportedly making its first serious foray into New York's 24th District with a $180,000 ad buy for the final week of the election. The NRCC and the House Majority PAC have been involved here, though the DCCC has not been.
● OH-01: A very confusing few hours went by on Tuesday during which it appeared that the DCCC might have given up on Aftab Pureval, only for us to soon learn that no such thing had happened. The uncertainty arose after the committee's last TV ad reservations had apparently concluded on Monday. A Republican consultant speculated to Roll Call that Democrats "might have pulled the plug," and oddly, a D-Trip spokesperson didn't directly dispute the notion.
Later that day, though, the DCCC's executive director, Dan Sena, flatly declared that his committee "isn't pulling out" of Ohio's 1st, and indeed, the DCCC went back on the air on Wednesday. The House Majority PAC also placed another buy of its own, for $253,000. The last couple of polls have shown Republican Rep. Steve Chabot ahead, but we haven't gotten any fresh data in over three weeks, and presumably Democrats are seeing signs for hope, given their continued investment.
● PA-01, PA-07, NJ-03: Mike Bloomberg's super PAC Independence USA says it's cancelling its $1.2 million TV ad reservation in Philadelphia, with a spokesperson saying, "Right now, we think that the races in and around Philly are in good shape for the Democrats." That media market includes three competitive districts, Pennsylvania's 1st and 7th and New Jersey's 3rd. However, the announcement is somewhat surprising as Democrats appear to have an edge only in the 7th (and even that's not a sure thing), while the other two races are toss-ups.
● PA-10: While the DCCC had been dark in Pennsylvania's 10th District since Oct. 15, the GOP firm Medium Buying says the committee is going back on the air for the final week before Election Day with an unspecified buy. Previously, the DCCC had spent $232,000 to help Democrat George Scott against GOP Rep. Scott Perry in a somewhat under-the-radar race that a couple of unanswered Scott internals had shown to be surprisingly close. Siena is currently polling this race for the New York Times, though, so we should have some new data soon.
● TX-23: While the NRCC canceled its ad buys a few weeks ago in a sign of confidence in GOP Rep. Will Hurd, its allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund are continuing to roll out ads hitting Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones. While CLF unveiled a poll in early October showing Hurd up 55-30, it still spent $225,000 here from Oct. 15-21.
● WA-08: The League of Conservation Voters has launched a $1 million TV buy against Republican Dino Rossi.
● House: Curious about the current state of play in the battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives? In this week’s installment of the DKE House Forecast, we explore if there has been any partisan movement in the fight for balance of power (spoiler alert: not much!). We also explore how a possible change of terrain can be a harbinger of good things to come.
● Polls: If a House poll is released in a forest and no one's around, does it make a sound?
- CA-39: Siena for the New York Times: Gil Cisneros (D): 47, Young Kim (R): 46
- CA-45: TargetPoint Consulting (R): Mimi Walters (R-inc): 50, Katie Porter (D): 42
- CO-06: TargetPoint Consulting (R): Jason Crow (D): 48, Mike Coffman (R-inc): 43
- FL-15: Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D) for Kristen Carlson: Kristen Carlson (D): 47, Ross Spano (R): 47 (Sept: 48-48 Carlson)
- MN-01: SurveyUSA for KAAL & KSTP: Dan Feehan (D): 47, Jim Hagedorn (R): 45
- MT-AL: Montana State University Billings: Greg Gianforte (R-inc): 44, Kathleen Williams (D): 41
- NM-02: Siena for the New York Times: Yvette Herrell (R): 45, Xochitl Torres Small (D): 44 (Sept.: 46-45 Torres Small)
- NY-21: TargetPoint Consulting (R): Elise Stefanik (R-inc): 50, Tedra Cobb (D): 40
- OH-12: GBA Strategies (D) for Danny O'Connor: Danny O'Connor (D): 47, Troy Balderson (R-inc): 47 (Sept.: 47-46 Balderson)
- OH-16: TargetPoint Consulting (R): Anthony Gonzalez (R): 48, Susan Moran Palmer (D): 39
- PA-01: TargetPoint Consulting (R): Scott Wallace (D): 49, Brian Fitzpatrick (R-inc): 45
- TX-02: TargetPoint Consulting (R): Dan Crenshaw (R): 49, Todd Litton (D): 40
- VA-05: TargetPoint Consulting (R): Denver Riggleman (R): 48, Leslie Cockburn (D): 43
- VA-10: Global Strategy Group (D) for Giffords PAC: Jennifer Wexton (D): 49, Barbara Comstock (R-inc): 39 (Aug.: 50-43 Wexton)
- VA-10: TargetPoint Consulting (R): Wexton (D): 47, Comstock (R-inc): 47
The GOP firm TargetPoint says its polls "were commissioned by a variety of clients of TargetPoint consulting who do not wish to be disclosed." You can find each sample size at FiveThirtyEight.
The TargetPoint surveys were generally, though not universally, good for the GOP. Their most notable numbers are in California's 45th and Virginia's 10th, two suburban districts that swung hard against Trump in 2016 after backing Romney four years earlier. The memo the firm provided to the conservative site Free Beacon says Trump "has overall positive numbers" in CA-45, which backed Clinton 50-44, and is underwater just 45-50 in VA-10, which supported her 52-42. Those numbers seem far too optimistic considering how much Team Red has been struggling in well-educated suburban seats like these.
By contrast, TargetPoint's poll of Pennsylvania's 1st is pretty good news for Team Blue. While a recent Siena poll found Wallace up 50-43, a late-September Monmouth poll gave Fitzpatrick a 50-46 lead. The GOP also released an early-October poll giving the incumbent a 50-42 edge.
TargetPoint is also out with the first polls we've seen at all from NY-21, OH-16, and TX-02.
The Carlson internal is very similar to recent independent polls from SurveyUSA and Siena. Spano and his allies, by contrast, have released polls giving Spano a 6- to 7-point lead.
The only other poll we've seen out of Minnesota's 1st was an August Hagedorn internal that gave him a 47-33 lead. Both parties continued to spend heavily on ads here, though, so no one seemed to think the race was anywhere near that lopsided, and this new poll also indicates this race is tight.
A mid-September poll from a bipartisan team of pollsters for the AARP found Gianforte up just 46-45 in Montana's only House seat. This race hasn't attracted much outside spending so far.
O'Connor's poll was released just after his allies at End Citizens United released a survey giving Balderson a 48-46 edge. We haven't seen any independent polls here since the early August special election that Balderson narrowly won.
Giffords PAC's memo has the sample size and field dates for a previously unreleased August poll that gave Wexton a 50-43 lead.