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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.
● MS-Gov: On Monday, longtime Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced he would run for the state's open governorship in 2019, with a formal kickoff scheduled for Wednesday. As the sole Democrat to win statewide office in Mississippi during the last 15 years, Hood may give Democrats their best chance at winning the governor's office since former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove last prevailed in 1999. However, an anti-democratic relic of Mississippi's 1890 Jim Crow constitution could stand in Hood's way—even if he wins the most votes on Election Day.
The provision in question requires gubernatorial candidates to win both a majority of the statewide vote and a majority of the 122 districts that make up the state House. If no candidate wins both the popular vote and a majority of districts, the state House then picks the winner from the top two finishers.
That stacks the race against Hood or any other Democrat twice over: First, because the Republicans who control the state legislature have aggressively gerrymandered their own maps, making it much harder for a Democrat to win a majority of House districts than for a Republican; and second, because that same gerrymandered GOP majority in the House could simply install the Republican candidate as governor even if he or she loses the statewide vote.
That effectively gerrymanders the gubernatorial election in favor of the Republicans, since Hood would have to win the statewide vote by a wide margin in order to also carry a majority of House districts and avoid having his fate determined by the House. Yet just as with Donald Trump and the Electoral College, Republicans can win even if they lose.
This perverse provision has its roots in a racist constitution that was explicitly designed to eliminate the power of black voters.
Consequently, there's a strong case to be made that this system both violates the federal Voting Rights Act and perhaps even the Supreme Court's "one person, one vote" jurisprudence, since an equal number of votes won't be cast in each state House district. Indeed, the Supreme Court in 1963 struck down Georgia's system of determining statewide primary contests by a so-called "county unit system" that gave rural voters excess weight. However, a proposal to repeal Mississippi's system failed in the legislature earlier this year.
One reason this law likely still remains on the books is that Mississippi has never seen a candidate win the statewide vote while losing the district-level vote. The closest this system ever came to being tested was Musgrove's 1999 election, when he won a 49.6-48.5 plurality over Republican Mike Parker, and both candidates carried exactly half of the state House districts. Democrats still dominated the legislature at that point, however, and they easily elected Musgrove.
Since his first election in 2003, Hood has always won by double digits, even though Republicans made a considerable effort to defeat him in 2015. If he can replicate such a decisive victory, he may have a chance at winning 62 of the 122 state House districts needed to prevail. However, Mississippi is still a very red state, and if this law still remains in place next year, it could prove decisive—to the detriment of Democrats and the black voters who support them, in particular.
You can keep track of all the $1 million-plus House fundraising quarters announced so far right here.
● AZ-Sen: Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, who had retired in 2012 but was appointed to fill John McCain's seat earlier this year, narrates the latest ad for Republican Martha McSally. Kyl bemoans how Washington is broken and touts McSally as a "strong leader" who will "strengthen the military and secure our border."
● MO-Sen: The Democratic group Majority Forward's newest TV ad blasts Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley for lying about his support for covering pre-existing medical conditions. Their spot plays a clip of a recent Hawley ad where he claims, "I support forcing insurance companies to cover all pre-existing conditions," but their commercial calls out that lie by highlighting newspaper coverage labeling it "ridiculously dishonest." Indeed, the narrator notes Hawley is part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn protections for pre-existing conditions, the exact opposite of his claim.
● NV-Sen: Popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval appears in the latest ad for GOP Sen. Dean Heller to praise the senator's supposed record of bipartisanship. Sandoval touts Heller's work to pass the Violence Against Women Act and his being a "tireless champion for veterans." Notably, Sandoval has refused to endorse his party's gubernatorial nominee, the arch-conservative Adam Laxalt.
● TX-Sen: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz debuted a TV ad that attacks Democrat Beto O'Rourke for supposedly calling the police the "new Jim Crow." The ad features a Fox News segment with Sheriff Tracy Murphree of conservative Denton County, Texas claiming, "There's been a war on police officers for the last several years."
Of course, this ad unsurprisingly takes O'Rourke's actual comments out of context. In reality O'Rourke was describing institutional racism in the criminal justice system like the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and police officers shooting unarmed black people with impunity, not attacking the integrity of all law enforcement like Cruz is attempting to portray. Furthermore, the "war on police officers" claim is baseless fearmongering, since the number of officers killed on duty each year has fallen precipitously over the last four decades even as America's population has grown by more than half during the same time frame.
The only other poll we've seen of the North Dakota Senate race in the last three months was a mid-August poll for Fox News that gave Cramer a smaller 48-44 lead. These are also the first set of polls we've ever seen from Strategic Research Associates.
● Senate: With the launch of Daily Kos Elections’ 2018 election portal, and its charts with polling averages and trendlines for every race, we’re now also going to be doing regular weekly previews of the state of play in the Senate, House, and gubernatorial races. David Jarman starts out with a forecast in the Senate, where the Democrats currently have leads in the polling averages in enough races to eke out a 51-49 majority (in other words, by picking up Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee, while losing North Dakota).
● FL-Gov: Republican Ron DeSantis continues to draw unsavory headlines over his association with those espousing bigotry, and the latest story comes from just last Friday, when DeSantis shared the stage at a Black Professionals Summit in Miami with virulent homophobe Raynard Jackson. Among his many other offensive statements against LGBTQ people, Jackson promoted the conspiracy that LGBTQ leaders were using Florida's 2016 Orlando nightclub massacre to further a "radical homosexual agenda."
Practically every one of the five weeks since DeSantis won the Aug. 28 primary has seen him incur criticism for instances of using racist dog-whistles, associating with those promoting anti-black racism and Islamophobia, and having moderated a Facebook group that shared racist content and conspiracy theories. DeSantis has trailed in every single poll since the primary, and this continued drip of stories connecting him to those promoting bigotry is unlikely to be helpful to his campaign.
● GA-Gov: The Georgia Democratic Party's latest TV ad goes after Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp over his failure to pay up on a $500,000 loan he had guaranteed for a business he invested in, which sparked an ongoing lawsuit. The commercial features multiple TV news segments to paint the picture of Kemp defaulting and "cheating his investors" as a sign that he's untrustworthy.
● MI-Gov: Democrat Gretchen Whitmer's newest TV ad details her mother's struggle with brain cancer, recounting how difficult it was to have to spend hours fighting with insurance companies to cover chemotherapy. Whitmer blasts Republican Bill Schuette for trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act and let insurance companies deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
● VT-Gov: The Vermont Democratic Party has released a poll from Tulchin Research that gives GOP Gov. Phil Scott a 50-42 lead over Democrat Christine Hallquist. This is the very first poll we've seen testing the two.
While Vermont is a reliably blue state in federal contests, Scott has posted strong approval ratings during most of his two-year term, and major Democratic groups haven't advertised here. The state party is arguing with this poll that, while Scott is still in a good position, he's not invulnerable.
Campaign finance reports for September are also out, and Scott only outraised Hallquist $138,000 to $131,000. However, the governor holds a larger $121,000 to $65,000 cash-on-hand lead over Hallquist, who would be the first transgender governor of any state.
This is the first poll we've seen from Colorado since June, when a PPP survey for the state Democratic Party gave Polis an identical 47-40 lead. The new poll was sponsored by Healthier Colorado, which the Denver Post identifies as a "nonpartisan healthcare advocacy organization."
This Illinois poll finds Rauner in awful shape, but other surveys have shown similar results. Rauner has never even exceeded 32 percent of the vote in any poll we've seen this year.
Jon Ralston notes that this Nevada poll doesn't include far-right independent Ryan Bundy, who will likely eat into Laxalt's support.
● AR-02: The DCCC has booked its first air time in Arkansas' 2nd District, putting down $255,000 to support Democrat Clarke Tucker against GOP Rep. French Hill with ads running from Oct. 9 through Oct. 22.
● CA-39: A new Los Angeles Times story reveals additional details about why Melissa Fazli withdrew her accusations of sexual harassment against Democratic candidate Gil Cisneros on Monday. According to Cisneros' new campaign manager, Nic Jordan, whose predecessor, Orrin Evans, stepped down on Monday, Evans had long advised Cisneros not to meet with Fazli, leaving her "hurt, because she felt completely ignored." But Jordan said watching Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify at the Brett Kavanaugh hearings prompted a change of heart in Cisneros, and they resolved their differences after finally meeting in person.
● CA-45: In an unusual move, GOP Rep. Mimi Walters has released just part of a Public Opinion Strategies poll, and it doesn't even show very good results for her. Walters' press release says that she leads Democrat Katie Porter 37-36 with voters "who have definitely made a decision," while she holds a 44-39 with "informed voters."
We're not sure exactly why Walters feels she needs to release these fragments of a poll. While a recent Siena survey for the New York Times gave Porter a 48-43 lead, the Democratic firm GBA Strategies recently released a poll giving the Democrat just a 48-47 edge, which indicates that this Orange County seat is still very much in play. It's possible that the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund's recent decision to stop advertising for several incumbent Republicans they reportedly feel are trailing has Walters spooked, and she's hoping to show major GOP groups she's a worthy investment.
● IA-01: The Hill reported on Tuesday that the DCCC has bought $115,000 in ad time in the race against GOP Rep. Rod Blum. This comes as a surprise, after Medium Buying reported last week that the DCCC had canceled all of its remaining TV spending in the Cedar Rapids media market, which is home to 86 percent of the district. However, it's possible that the DCCC is simply hedging its bets, and neither the NRCC nor its allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund have reserved any time to aid Blum.
● IL-14: Democrat Lauren Underwood uses her new ad to tell the audience that she has a heart condition that's considered a pre-existing condition. She adds that GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren used his "one and only public event in 2017" to pledge to only support an Obamacare repeal bill that let people with pre-existing conditions keep their coverage, but he "lied about taking away my healthcare coverage," which convinced her to run against him.
● ME-02: Democrat Jared Golden's newest spot stars Republican state Sen. Tom Saviello. Saviello, who is termed out of office this year, and Golden tell the audience that they've worked together in the legislature for middle-class tax cuts, to lower property taxes for homeowners, and to cut red tape for small businesses. Saviello then tells the audience that he used to support GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin, but the congressman lost him "after he voted to take health care away from over 100,000 Mainers."
● MI-08: While the Congressional Leadership Fund canceled its ads last week in support of GOP Rep. Mike Bishop, the DCCC is still running spots against him. Its newest commercial argues Bishop is in the pocket of drug and insurance companies. A few weeks ago, Medium Buying reported that the DCCC had canceled all its ad time for the Lansing media market, which covers about 40 percent of this seat, but it seems it’s still at least focusing its commercials on the larger portion of the seat in the Detroit market.
● MN-03: The new spot from the political arm of the League of Conservation Voters goes after GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen over an ad where he claimed he'd stand up to Donald Trump and protect the environment. The ad features an animated Trump and Paulsen paddling a boat as the narrator declares that the congressman voted "against limiting methane gas pollution" and "to allow coal mining companies to dump waste into America's waterways."
● NE-02: Medium Buying reports that the DCCC has placed its first ad buy starting on Tuesday in support of Democrat Kara Eastman against GOP Rep. Don Bacon, although there's no additional info.
● NJ-03: Ady Barkan, an activist dying of ALS, narrates a new joint ad from House Majority PAC and Be A Hero PAC against GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur.
Barkan, his voice badly strained by his disease, tells the audience that he was diagnosed just four months after his wife gave birth, and the ad shows images of him being cared for. He continues by saying he was shocked when "Congress passed the tax bill that would take away my health care to fund tax cuts for billionaires." The commercial then shows a man telling MacArthur at a town hall that his "actions affect the entire country," before Barkan declares that the congressman "betrayed my entire family and yours."
● NM-02: Democrat Xochitl Torres Small's newest spot features footage of her out bird hunting, with the candidate saying that "out here makes the squabbles in Washington seem small," and that "New Mexicans don't care which party gets the credit or the blame, we just want someone to deliver." Meanwhile, the NRCC's newest ad 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, yes, in the GOP's nihilistic worldview, universal health care means no health care at all.
● NV-03: The DCCC is out with a new spot accusing Republican Danny Tarkanian of setting up a children's basketball charity that he then used to "[run] up deficits paying himself six-figure salaries," and "secretly took 40 grand from the charity's bank account to pay off his mortgage and avoid foreclosure." Earlier this year, GOP Sen. Dean Heller levied a very similar attack against Tarkanian in a TV ad during their aborted primary fight.
● OH-10: GOP Rep. Mike Turner has never won less than 58 percent of the vote in his eight House campaigns, so it's interesting that he's going up with a negative spot against Democrat Theresa Gasper. The ad declares that Gasper doesn't appreciate the importance of the local Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Gasper has spoken about its importance to the community before, and the spot utilizes brief out-of-context clips to make its argument.
● PA-10: The DCCC reportedly made its first ad buy against Republican Rep. Scott Perry on Monday, and we now have the size of the buy: $261,000.
● PA-11: EMILY's List has endorsed Democrat Jess King, who faces a tough battle to unseat GOP Rep. Lloyd Smucker in an ancestrally red seat that backed Trump 61-35.
● SC-01: Democrat Joe Cunningham's newest ad shows the candidate swimming in the ocean as he talks about his opposition to oil drilling off the coast of South Carolina. The spot plays a clip of Republican Katie Arrington declaring that "President Trump and I support what he did, he lifted the ban on offshore drilling." Cunningham declares he doesn't support it "because even a small leak could kill our economy and ruin our beaches."
- AZ-01: Go Right Strategies (R) for Wendy Rogers: Wendy Rogers (R): 39, Tom O'Halleran (D-inc): 36
- AZ-02: Siena for the New York Times: Ann Kirkpatrick (D): 50, Lea Marquez Peterson (R): 39
- CO-06: Tarrance Group (R) for Mike Coffman & the NRCC: Jason Crow (D): 42, Mike Coffman (R-inc): 40, Kat Martin (L): 9
- FL-16: St. Pete Polls for Florida Politics: Vern Buchanan (R-inc): 50, David Shapiro (D): 43 (July: 44-35 Buchanan)
- FL-26: Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D) for Debbie Mucarsel-Powell: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D): 49, Carlos Curbelo (R-inc): 48
- MN-08: Victoria Research (D) for Joe Radinovich: Joe Radinovich (D): 45, Pete Stauber (R): 44
- ND-AL: Strategic Research Associates for Gray Television: Kelly Armstrong (R): 55, Mac Schneider (D): 31
- OH-01: Siena for the New York Times: Steve Chabot (R-inc): 50, Aftab Pureval (D): 41
- OK-05: SoonerPoll for News On 6/News 9: Steve Russell (R-inc): 47, Kendra Horn (D): 37
- TX-31: Tarrance Group (R) for John Carter: John Carter (R-inc): 54, MJ Hegar (D): 33
- VA-02: Siena for the New York Times: Scott Taylor (R-inc): 49, Elaine Luria (D): 41
- VA-10: Monmouth: Jennifer Wexton (D): 50, Barbara Comstock (R-inc): 44 (June: 49-39 Wexton)
The Go Right Strategies poll (FiveThirtyEight has the name of the pollster) only sampled landlines and has a very high proportion of undecided voters, just five weeks away from Election Day. However, the DCCC has spent $1 million here, including $214,000 just last week, so O'Halleran's allies aren't acting like this race is secure for him; major conservative groups have yet to get involved here.
Coffman and the NRCC released a mid-September poll showing a tight race days after his would-be allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund canceled their $1 million in planned TV reservation in the face of reportedly bad poll numbers for Team Red. September polls from Siena and the Democratic firm Normington Petts both found Coffman 11 points down.
A recent PPP poll for the progressive group Protect Our Care also gave Mucarsel-Powell a 1-point edge, while Siena found a 47-44 lead for Curbelo. By contrast, a DCCC poll from July had Curbelo up 48-41.
Siena's polls of Ohio's 1st and Virginia's 2nd are some of the most disappointing numbers they've released for Team Blue so far anywhere. A mid-September poll for Pureval gave him a 46-44 edge, while a recent poll for Chabot's allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund had the incumbent ahead 46-39. Over in Virginia, an early-September poll for Luria had her ahead 51-43. Both parties are spending heavily in each race, so it feels unlikely that either GOP incumbent has a clear lead right now.
By contrast, the poll of Arizona's 2nd might be a little too good for Democrats, though we don't have any other numbers here. The DCCC has spent a total of $751,000 so far, while the NRCC has deployed $629,000, so it’s not acting like Kirkpatrick is this far ahead.
Believe it or not, we've seen more polls out of Oklahoma's 5th than we've seen out of many competitive House races. SoonerPoll's results aren't too different from a recent Russell internal that had him up 50-37. So far, major outside groups have stayed away from this 53-40 Trump seat.
Carter's poll comes about a week after Hegar released a survey giving him a much-smaller 46-42 edge. Siena just started polling here for the New York Times, so we'll have our first independent poll here soon.
Monmouth's two polls are the only numbers we've seen out of Virginia's 10th. The NRCC and DCCC are still spending plenty of money here, but the CLF has stayed away. House Majority PAC recently cut $1 million from its planned reservation in a sign of confidence in Wexton's chances.
● Kansas City, MO Mayor: Former Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat who lost what was a tight 2016 Senate race despite Trump's wide victory in Missouri, announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of next year's open-seat race. Kander, who served in Afghanistan as an Army Intelligence officer, said he was dealing with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and that he needed to leave the race to focus on his mental health.
● Early Voting: Voting early has grown increasingly popular across the country in recent years, and in some states, the early voting period for the Nov. 2018 midterms has already begun. Click here for our calendar showing when early voting (sometimes known as "in-person absentee voting") starts and ends in every state that offers it.