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.
● House: As we enter the stretch run of the 2018 midterms, we're rolling out a new spreadsheet that attempts to track which House races the big-money players have decided to triage—either because they feel supremely confident, or because they've concluded their candidate is doomed. These developments, however, are very tricky to stay on top of. That's partly because data on TV ad reservations, which is the best tell, can be fragmentary. Major outside groups can also change their minds and jump back into a race they'd previously abandoned.
Then there's the fact that, in the post-Citizens United era, the party committees that used to call the shots now compete with giant super PACs—at least on the GOP side. To date, the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is closely linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan, has spent about $64 million this cycle, twice the $32 million spent by the NRCC. (The DCCC continues to be the major player on the Democratic side.) That's turned the NRCC into the junior partner this year, and it's led to some friction between the two organizations, whose priorities have lately have diverged somewhat.
As a result, we've seen a few contests where either the CLF or the NRCC—but not both—have quit the field. It could mean they're strategically divvying up the field, or it could mean that one group has given up on the race in question and is rolling its eyes at its counterpart's refusal to face up to reality. For that reason, we're only willing to conclude that a Republican-held seat has truly been triaged if we know both groups have walked away from it—though again, there's still plenty of time for decisions like that to get reversed (something we have in fact seen in previous election cycles).
And as you scan our tracker, bear in mind that there's a "good kind" of triage, too, which we alluded to above: Sometimes parties cancel ad reservations (or never make any in the first place) because they think a seat is secure. That appears to be the case in California's 21st District, where the NRCC previously cancelled October ad time because they reportedly feel good about GOP Rep. David Valadao's chances. These are just all things to bear in mind as we keep our eyes on which races have been triaged and which are still competitive as we draw close to Election Day.
You can keep track of all the $1 million-plus House fundraising quarters announced so far right here.
● MO-Sen, MT-Sen: We haven't seen too many campaign ads from either party focusing on the Supreme Court fight, but Republicans Josh Hawley and Matt Rosendale are out with new spots trying to rally conservatives against the Democratic incumbents.
Hawley speaks to the audience and argues that Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer "don't want the truth, they only want power," while he pledges to "fight for the Supreme Court." Hawley never actually mentions Brent Kavanaugh himself, but tries to make a broader argument that the court is "the last line of defense for our values. It's worth the battle."
Over in Montana, Republican Matt Rosendale spends most of his ad hitting Democratic Sen. Jon Tester for helping torpedo Ronny Jackson's nomination to become secretary of veterans affairs, a grievance Donald Trump continues to bring up at rallies against Tester. The narrator insists that Tester leaked allegations against Jackson to the media that weren’t true. The Pentagon opened an investigation against Jackson in June over accusations that he improperly prescribed drugs and drank on the job, and despite the spot's declaration that the charges were lies, there's been no public resolution yet.
The Rosendale spot only alludes to the Supreme Court at the end, when it shows a picture of Tester with fellow Democratic Sens. Schumer, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Dianne Feinstein with a photo of Kavanaugh below, as the narrator declares that now Tester and his allies are trying to smear and destroy someone else.
● WV-Sen: The GOP group 35th PAC went up with a spot in late August arguing that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin "used his Washington connections to get his daughter a job at a drug company that makes fentanyl, a deadly opioid responsible for thousands of overdose deaths." The company the commercial was alluding to was the pharmaceutical giant Mylan, and the Daily Beast reports that Mylan's attorneys got the ad pulled after arguing it contained "a series of outrageously false statements and images" against the company.
For all the GOP's hope that the Supreme Court battle has helped them solve their enthusiasm gap, Fox's polls show only small changes in either direction from a month ago … with one very big exception. This is the second survey we've seen this week to show Heitkamp trailing by double digits. Polling is limited (we've seen no other surveys here at all since early July), and both parties are continuing to spend plenty of money, but if Democrats have better numbers, they're not releasing them.
● Senate: Politico reports the conservative Senate Leadership Fund has reserved another $13 million in TV, radio, and digital ads across Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee.
● OK-Gov: The RGA is going up with its first TV spot here, which unsurprisingly portrays Democrat Drew Edmonson as a tax-raising Hillary Clinton ally; there is no word on the size of the buy. Meanwhile, Advertising Analytics reports that the DGA-backed group A Stronger Oklahoma has added another $280,000 in TV time, taking their total investment to $778,000 so far.
● RI-Gov: On Thursday, conservative independent Joe Trillo unveiled an endorsement from state House GOP Leader Patricia Morgan, who lost last month's primary to Allan Fung 56-40. Morgan said that Fung called her after the primary to try to get her support, but it "didn't go well." However, just hours after Morgan's defection, the other Republicans in her 11-member caucus voted to remove her from her leadership position.
● SD-Gov: Republican Kristi Noem still hasn't responded with better numbers to a recent poll from Democrat Billie Sutton that gave him a 45-42 lead, but she has gone up with a negative TV spot. The narrator argues that Sutton is a typical Democrat who wants to increase taxes and "expand Obamacare in South Dakota," and that he backed Hillary Clinton.
● Governors: In addition to weekly updates on the state of the Senate and the House, based on Daily Kos Elections' new portal with polling averages and trendlines, we'll also be doing weekly updates on the nation's gubernatorial races. Unlike in the Senate, the sky's the limit: Democratic candidates look poised, as of today, to flip eight states, with a few more hanging right around the cusp.
While a few Democratic polls have shown a tight race in Arizona, almost every other survey has found Ducey well ahead. It's very plausible that the governor is doing well, since, according to local NBC reporter Brahm Resnik, Ducey and his allies at the RGA have been outspending Democrats on TV $14.73 million to $291,000, a margin of 50 to one. Early voting, which is popular in Arizona, starts Oct. 10, so outside groups need to get involved very soon if they want to aid Garcia before too many votes are off the table.
By contrast, Michigan is looking quite good for Team Blue. Whitmer has always led by at least 8 points in every poll that's been released since the primaries concluded two months ago.
● CA-22: GOP Rep. Devin Nunes' newest TV spot is one of the first ads we've seen that uses Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels and Julie Swetnick who is also a possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, as a bogeyman. The narrator declares that Avenatti is part of the "resistance party" in San Francisco being held for Democrat Andrew Janz, and the spot features a shot of the two together. After saying that former Sen. Barbara Boxer and "Bay Area celebrities" are also in the tank for Janz, the narrator insists that they want "to take our water and force their values on our valley."
However, Nunes is also picking fights with institutions closer to home. The congressman recently sent out a 40(!)-page mailer to voters dedicated to bashing the Fresno Bee as a "propaganda machine" and calling out reporters by name. The cover of the mailer shows several animated bees on a yacht drinking Kool-Aid as "Resist" signs drift in the waters around them.
● FL-18: Yipes—this is why you always vet the talent. Republican Rep. Brian Mast, who faces a competitive re-election challenge from Democrat Lauren Baer, was forced to pull down a TV ad attacking his opponent after USA Today reported that its star, John Cosomano, had been convicted of domestic battery by strangulation and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm in 2013. In the ad, Cosomano claimed he was a retired New York City firefighter, but USA Today says that Cosomano is in fact an actor from Miami, and that the network is "still attempting to confirm he was a firefighter."
● GA-06: Democrat Lucy McBath's first general election TV ad features the candidate talking about the loss of her teenage son Jordan, who was shot to death in a car at a gas station. The spot then shows the vehicle with glass broken and bullet holes in the doors, and McBath tearfully says that the murderer aimed three rounds at Jordan, who "did not deserve to die that way."
McBath goes on to say that afterwards, she "vowed to make a difference"; she describes herself as "a mom who flew with Delta for 30 years," and pledges to "fight to protect women's health care and middle-class tax cuts."
● KS-02, KS-03: Medium Buying reports the DCCC canceled its ad buys for the Kansas City and Topeka media markets for the final week of the election, though they still have TV time reserved in both markets through Oct. 15.
● MN-01: The NRCC's newest ad against Democrat Dan Feehan tries to tie him to not one, but two of the people the GOP base most loves to hate: billionaire progressive donor George Soros and former NFL player Colin Kaepernick.
First, though, the ad once again tries to make the Army veteran and former Department of Defense official sound like he's anti-military. The NRCC once again uses a clip of Feehan saying that "every time the Army complains, every time the Marine Corps complains … I ask them to please stop. Stop complaining." As we've written before, the rest of Feehan's statement was "because at the end of the day I worry about the Air Force," but the NRCC once again leaves that part out of their ad, because including it would make it harder to portray Feehan the way they want to portray him.
The narrator then charges that Feehan "works at a liberal D.C. organization bankrolled by George Soros, chief financier of the global left and anti-American causes." That unnamed organization is the Center for a New American Security, a think tank filled with plenty of high-profile former Defense and State Department officials. That's of course far from the anti-American organization the NRCC ad wants to make it sound like it is.
The narrator then declares that Feehan is "celebrating Colin Kaepernick's protests of our national anthem." The screen shows a 2016 Feehan tweet saying the candidate is "honored that [Kaepernick’s] activism matches the patriotism of our military in shared risk #veteransforKaepernick," which is the closest the spot actually comes to acknowledging Feehan is a veteran.
● PA-07: While state and national Republicans reportedly have been feeling pessimistic about Marty Nothstein's campaign in this swingy Lehigh Valley seat, both the DCCC and NRCC are directing money here for the first time. Morning Call reports that the DCCC has begun a $650,000 buy, and its first ad hits Nothstein on health care and taxes.
The NRCC says it has $1.5 million reserved here, but it won't say when it plans to spend on ads. Last week, NRCC chief Steve Stivers left himself plenty of wiggle room about whether his committee would even get involved here, saying it has "some money parked in Philadelphia that could be used for that race, and I think we're waiting to see what happens there and we may be in there." Until the NRCC starts actually airing commercials, it can still commit all that money toward other competitive House seats in the Philadelphia media market, so Nothstein may still need to demonstrate he's a worthy investment.
● VA-02: The DCCC seems to be betting that the signature-gathering scandal surrounding GOP Rep. Scott Taylor's campaign will make him toxic, since they've released their fourth TV ad on the topic. By contrast, their allies at House Majority PAC have mostly attacked Taylor on health care, though one spot did allude to his scandal.
- CA-10: UC Berkeley for the L.A. Times: Josh Harder (D): 50, Jeff Denham (R-inc): 45
- CA-22: UC Berkeley for the L.A. Times: Devin Nunes (R-inc): 53, Andrew Janz (D): 45
- CA-25: UC Berkeley for the L.A. Times: Katie Hill (D): 50, Steve Knight (R-inc): 46
- CA-39: UC Berkeley for the L.A. Times: Gil Cisneros (D): 49, Young Kim (R): 48
- CA-45: UC Berkeley for the L.A. Times: Katie Porter (D): 52, Mimi Walters (R-inc): 45
- CA-48: UC Berkeley for the L.A. Times: Harley Rouda (D): 48, Dana Rohrabacher (R-inc): 48
- CA-49: UC Berkeley for the L.A. Times: Mike Levin (D): 55, Diane Harkey (R): 41
- CA-50: UC Berkeley for the L.A. Times: Duncan Hunter (R-inc): 49, Ammar Campa-Najjar: 47
- CA-50: Tulchin Research (D) for Ammar Campa-Najjar: Duncan Hunter (R-inc): 45, Campa-Najjar (D): 44
- FL-16: University of North Florida: Vern Buchanan (R-inc): 49, David Shapiro (D): 40
- KY-06: Garin-Hart-Yang (D) for Amy McGrath: Amy McGrath (D): 51, Andy Barr (R-inc): 44 (Aug.: 49-44 Barr; July: 50-43 McGrath)
- MI-08: Siena for the NYT: Mike Bishop (R-inc): 47, Elissa Slotkin (D): 44
- MN-02: Siena for NYT: Angie Craig (D): 51, Jason Lewis (R-inc): 39
- NH-01: OnMessage (R) for Eddie Edwards & the NRCC: Eddie Edwards (R): 42, Chris Pappas (D): 40
- VA-02: Change Research (D): Scott Taylor (R-inc) 46, Elaine Luria (D) 46.
- VA-10: Christopher Newport University: Jennifer Wexton (D): 51, Barbara Comstock (R-inc): 44
These polls from UC Berkley are among the first surveys, if not the first, that we've seen from many of these California House seats. You can find the sample sizes for each survey here.
The only other independent poll we've seen out of California's 39th District was a Monmouth poll that gave Kim a hefty 51-41 lead, which seemed too bad to be true. Note that this new poll was finished before Monday, when the woman who had been accusing Cisneros of sexual harassment publicly withdrew her allegations, so this survey would not capture any effects of this new development.
Over in the nearby 45th District, Walters is in a bit of an odd position where independent media polls actually find her in worse shape than the Democratic polls we've seen. Walters herself recently released only parts of her own poll, which indicates that she doesn't like the overall numbers. However, The Hill reports that NRCC recently directed another $600,000 to this seat, so they still think she's a worthy investment.
UC Berkeley is the first independent pollster to show a tight race between Hunter, who is under indictment, and Campa-Najjar. A recent Monmouth poll found Hunter ahead 53-38.
The memo to McGrath's poll says that her standing has rebounded over the last few months. In July, a previously-unreleased poll found McGrath up 50-43, but after the GOP attack ads began in earnest, Barr led 49-44 in August. Three polls from September showed a tight race here.
Siena's survey of Michigan's 8th giving Bishop a small lead only adds to the confusion about the state of the race. Recent polls for Bishop and Slotkin also found a tight contest so if we were only working off the polls, all the evidence would point to a close election. However, the CLF recently canceled their $2.1 million TV reservation because their private numbers reportedly showed Bishop in bad shape.
It's tough to believe the CLF would have acted so dramatically in this seat (the CLF's chief Corey Bliss named this very seat back in June as one of the two races he'd be watching to see which party would win the House; the other was the aforementioned Walter's California's 45th District) if they weren't convinced Bishop was losing badly. So far, the DCCC and NRCC are still very much involved in this race.
By contrast, Siena's survey shows Lewis in far worse shape than any other poll we've seen in Minnesota. SurveyUSA and the Democratic firm PPP recently gave Craig a small lead, and Lewis and the NRCC released their own poll just before Siena was done that gave him a small edge.
The only other poll we've seen out of New Hampshire's 1st was an ARG poll that had Pappas up by a huge 55-33 margin. Major outside groups, including the NRCC, have yet to air any ads here, and we don't know of any GOP reservations. We'll see if the NRCC puts their money where their mouth is and actually spends to try to flip this swingy seat.
The Democratic firm Change Research tells us they didn't have a client in Virginia's 2nd.