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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.
● MT-Sen: Libertarian Rick Breckenridge dropped out of Montana's Senate race on Wednesday and endorsed Republican Matt Rosendale, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, although Breckenridge will of course remain on the ballot. In 2012, when Tester won re-election to a second term, Libertarian Dan Cox won 6.6 percent of the vote, almost double Tester's 3.7 percent margin over Republican Denny Rehberg.
That year, though, Democrats made a concerted effort to boost Cox, an effort that appears lacking this time around (though Breckenridge does claim he quit because of an anonymous mailer touting him as a the "true conservative" alternative to Rosendale). What's more, Breckenridge has only been polling at around 2 to 3 percent, and at this point, a large proportion of voters have already cast ballots. This development is therefore unlikely to move many votes to Rosendale, who trails Tester 48-43 in the current Daily Kos Elections polling average.
Meanwhile, Tester's closing ad features him explaining how he lost three fingers in a meat-grinder accident when he was just nine years and working on his parent's farm. Showing the stumps on his left hand, Tester laments how his parents had to pay for the hospital bill because they had "junk insurance" that wouldn't cover it, but he notes that Montana got rid of such insurance plans "until our insurance commissioner Matt Rosendale let them back in." Tester criticizes Rosendale for wanting to let insurance companies deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
● MN-Sen-B: According to the Republican firm Medium Buying, the DSCC has bought a flight of TV ads, worth $700,000, per the Washington Examiner, on behalf of Democratic Sen. Tina Smith. In addition, the Senate Majority PAC just reported spending $400,000 on digital ads to help Smith, who was appointed earlier this year to replace Al Franken, in her race against Republican Karin Housley.
This race has attracted very little in outside spending, most of which has been on the Democratic side. Smith holds a 47-41 advantage over Housley according to the Daily Kos Elections polling average; aside from a couple of too-good-to-be-true surveys from Marist, Smith's lead has always been in single digits. If the race is indeed closing, we'd need more data to know that.
● Polls: Almost there …
- AZ-Sen: Ipsos for Reuters and UVA: Martha McSally (R): 48, Kyrsten Sinema (D): 46 (Sept.: 47-44 Sinema)
- AZ-Sen: SSRS for CNN: Sinema (D): 51, McSally (R): 47 (Sept.: 50-43 Sinema)
- CA-Sen: UC Berkeley: Dianne Feinstein (D-inc): 45, Kevin de Leon (D): 36
- CA-Sen: Probolsky Research (R): Feinstein (D-inc): 41, de Leon (D): 35 (Sept.: 37-29 Feinstein)
- FL-Sen: Ipsos for Reuters and UVA: Bill Nelson (D-inc): 49, Rick Scott (R): 44 (Sept.: 46-45 Scott)
- ND-Sen: Trafalgar (R): Kevin Cramer (R): 49, Heidi Heitkamp (D-inc): 39
- NJ-Sen: Vox Populi (R): Bob Menendez (D-inc): 43, Bob Hugin (R): 36 (early Oct.: 36-35 Menendez)
- NV-Sen: SSRS for CNN: Jacky Rosen (D): 48, Dean Heller (R-inc): 45 (early Oct.: 45-44 Heller)
- TN-Sen: Cygnal (R): Marsha Blackburn (R): 51, Phil Bredesen (D): 45
- TN-Sen: Marist for NBC: Blackburn (R): 51, Bredesen (D): 46 (Aug.: 48-46 Bredesen)
- TN-Sen: Vox Populi (R): Blackburn (R): 48, Bredesen (D): 41 (Sept.: 42-42 tie)
- TX-Sen: University of Texas at Tyler: Ted Cruz (R-inc): 47, Beto O'Rourke (D): 43
- WI-Sen: Marquette: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): 54, Leah Vukmir (R): 43 (Sept.: 53-42 Baldwin)
One thing to note with Ipsos is that, once again, they've managed to sample an almost impossible small number of independents. We went into some detail recently as to why this could affect the accuracy of these polls.
● AK-Gov: In what may be the only clear-cut poll we get out of Alaska before Tuesday, Democratic pollster Alaska Survey Research finds Republican Mike Dunleavy with just a 43-42 edge on Democrat Mark Begich, with independent Gov. Bill Walker, who recently dropped out of the race, still taking 8. Most of these Walker supporters seem to be either die-hards or folks who've already cast ballots, since about three quarters of this small group claims they were aware he was no longer in the race.
Nevertheless, when prompted with this piece of information, only about one quarter of Walker backers say they'd stick with him, leaving him with just 2 percent of the vote and giving Begich a 46-43 lead. Either way, if this poll is accurate, then Begich has a real chance to pull this one out for Democrats, which would help explain the DGA's last-minute $480,000 investment in this race.
● KS-Gov: Wealthy independent Greg Orman should have abandoned his going-nowhere campaign for governor months ago, but instead, he now gets to watch it collapse in its final days. On Tuesday, Orman's treasurer, former Republican state Sen. Tim Owens, resigned from the campaign and endorsed Democrat Laura Kelly, citing the need to stop Republican nominee Kris Kobach. In response, Orman insisted he wouldn't drop out, but while polls show Kelly and Kobach in a dead heat, Orman hasn't cracked 10 percent since the summer. He could follow Owens' lead, but instead, Orman is going to waste everyone's time and put his state at risk of four more years of extreme nihilist governance.
● MI-Gov: It seems like Republican Bill Schuette is giving up on his own campaign. The Detroit News reports that Schuette has cancelled $445,000 in planned media spending for the final week of the race throughout the state, except in Detroit, where's still booked for $441,000 in TV time. While the Michigan Republican Party and the RGA are still spending $1.25 million on Schuette's behalf during the stretch run, he's getting badly outspent by Democrat Gretchen Whitmer and her allies.
Schuette's team is also in the awkward position of having to argue against the polls, though their claims are a bit scattered. A Schuette spokesperson says the race is "getting closer," which may be true, but Whitmer still has a wide 47-38 lead in the Daily Kos Elections polling average. Schuette himself, meanwhile, says that "polls have been proven wrong before in Michigan," dubbing himself "the comeback kid." While such a thing is certainly possibly, all 26 public polls of this race dating back to last year have shown Whitmer ahead.
● Polls: Today's batch of gubernatorial data:
- FL-Gov: Ipsos for Reuters and UVA: Andrew Gillum (D): 50, Ron DeSantis (R): 44 (Sept.: 50-44 Gillum)
- KS-Gov: Ipsos for Reuters and UVA: Laura Kelly (D): 43, Kris Kobach (R): 41, Greg Orman (I): 9
- NV-Gov: SSRS for CNN: Steve Sisolak (D): 46, Adam Laxalt (R): 45 (Sept.: 45-41 Sisolak)
- OK-Gov: SoonerPoll for News9: Kevin Stitt (R): 46, Drew Edmondson (D): 42 (Sept.: 47-44 Stitt)
- WI-Gov: Marquette: Tony Evers (D): 47, Scott Walker (R-inc): 47 (early Oct.: 47-46 Walker)
While other outfits have always shown Evers with a lead, Marquette is the only pollster to ever find Scott ahead. In general, they've been more bearish on Evers' chances than the out-of-state polling firms. Marquette also has a strong reputation for accuracy, though their final poll in 2016, like so many others, predicted wins for Hillary Clinton and Russ Feingold.
● CA-21: The story in California's 21st continues to get more and more interesting. According to Medium Buying, the NRCC has bought additional TV time there, on top of their existing reservation, and the DCCC has moved in as well. In both cases, though, we don't yet know how much either group is spending. Last week, the House Majority PAC went in with a surprise $247,000 buy to help Democrat T.J. Cox against GOP Rep. David Valadao.
● IN-02: This is … odd. In what's presumably her closing ad (or one of them), GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski touts the fact that she "work[ed] across the aisle with Sen. Joe Donnelly to deliver a veterans' clinic in our area." Considering that Walorski's fellow Hoosier Republicans are busy doing everything they can to ensure that Donnelly doesn't win a second term next month, her message seems a little bit, well, off-message. However, this was Donnelly's old district, so he's probably still somewhat popular here.
The rest of the ad is in a similar vein: The narrator says Walorski helped write a "bipartisan law" to combat the opioid crisis, and the congresswoman herself concludes by saying she'll "always be an independent voice for you." This conservative district has attracted very little in the way of outside spending, but Democrats have a credible candidate here in Mel Hall, who's given his own campaign $2.5 million to date (the rare self-funder this cycle). It's possible, then, that the very conservative Walorski has seen a late poll suggesting she'd better tack to the center to keep Hall at bay, or she might just be playing it safe.
● ND-AL: The House Majority PAC is reportedly going up with a small $68,000 buy in North Dakota, where the state's at-large congressional district is open this year because GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer is challenging Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. However, the race to succeed Cramer, between Democrat Mac Schneider and Republican Kelly Armstrong, hasn't looked competitive at all: Thanks to the Senate contest, the House race has gotten polled a number of times, and Armstrong holds a wide lead.
With Heitkamp's fortunes having grown dimmer, it's almost impossible to see a path for Armstrong, so we're left scratching our heads. Even though a Senate race would theoretically be outside of HMP's ambit, perhaps this is some triple-bank-shot play to somehow boost Heitkamp? Your guess is as good as ours.
● OH-01: Democrat Aftab Pureval's struggling campaign took another blow on Tuesday when it announced that campaign manager Sarah Topy had resigned. Pureval didn't elaborate on why, but he issued a statement saying that Topy "may not have lived up to" the "standards of professionalism and accountability" he'd set out. A day earlier, Republicans accused a Pureval volunteer, Jack Dohrenwend, of posing as a volunteer for Republican Rep. Steve Chabot and accessed a private voter database. Pureval says that he did not direct Dohrenwend to do so, and there's no evidence that Pureval's campaign benefited from the breach.
● PA-17: If you didn't know that Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus had long ago been abandoned by his party in his race against Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, you'd undoubtedly reach that conclusion watching his latest (and perhaps final) TV ad. It's a soft-focus encomium to diversity and inclusion, featuring still images of lots of people of color and religious minorities. It even seems to include a nod toward the recent synagogue slaughter in Pittsburgh, just next door to the 17th District, with a photo of a candlelight vigil as the narrator says that when we are "threatened by evil, we defeat it." The spot concludes by saying, "We are one nation, indivisible"—a word most commonly associated these days with, well, Indivisible, the progressive activist group. We're going to guess this gambit is not going to work.
● VA-05: Former Republican Sen. John Warner, who represented Virginia in the Senate for five terms until his retirement in 2008, endorsed Democrat Leslie Cockburn as well as Sen. Tim Kaine at a campaign event over the weekend. While insisting he was "still a Republican," the 91-year-old Warner explained that he was backing Cockburn over GOP nominee Denver Riggleman because "you've got to have the courage to do what's right for the country and what's right for your state." He doesn't seem to have much in common with his party anymore, though: Warner specifically cited his agreement with Cockburn's positions on health care, education, and gun-safety laws in explaining his support for her.
This race had not received much attention until late in the game, when a Siena poll showed Cockburn with a surprising 46-45 edge on Riggleman and both the Congressional Leadership Fund and the Club for Growth came in with big money to help prop up the Republican. However, Democratic groups have not followed suit. The only major progressive organization to get involved has been EMILY's List, which spent $420,000 on TV ads, but that expenditure was made three weeks ago. Cockburn, though, has vastly outraised Riggleman, so she doesn't face quite so daunting a deficit.
● House: In this week's installment of the DKE House Forecast, we look at yet another essential ingredient in building a wave election: earning the votes of folks not traditionally predisposed to choose your side. It happened in 2017, hence Gov. Ralph Northam in Virginia and a 15-seat legislative pickup for the Democrats. Will it happen in 2018? We've got the facts and figures. Also: An update of the forecast shows a little shift, and we discuss how next week could either be a mild disappointment for the Democrats, or an utter catastrophe for the GOP.
● Polls: Some more House numbers for ya:
- KS-02: Siena for the New York Times: Paul Davis (D): 41, Steve Watkins (R): 37, Others: 7 (Sept.: 45-44 Davis)
- NC-09: Siena for the New York Times: Mark Harris (R): 45, Dan McCready (D): 44 (early Oct.: 47-42 Harris)
- NJ-07: Monmouth: Tom Malinowski (D): 47, Leonard Lance (R-inc): 44 (Sept.: 46-43 Malinowski)
- PA-11: Susquehanna Polling (R) for ABC27: Lloyd Smucker (R-inc): 50, Jess King (D): 46
The numbers out of Pennsylvania's 11th would be pretty startling if accurate. This district was pretty much the only one in the entire state to become materially more Republican when the state Supreme Court ordered a new congressional map earlier this year, and no district based in Lancaster County (as this one is) has ever elected a Democrat. But there's plenty of reason to be cautious: A PPP poll for King last month had Smucker up 44-35, and Trump carried this seat 61-35.
Here are a few notable spending moves on the House front that popped up on Wednesday:
● FL-06: The New York Times reports that Mike Bloomberg's Independence USA has followed the House Majority PAC and gotten involved in Florida's open 6th District, where Democrat Nancy Soderberg faces Republican Michael Waltz. We haven't seen any independent expenditure reports yet, so we don't know how much they're spending, but the group has an ad on their website slamming Waltz for wanting to undermine Medicare and Social Security.
● GA-06: For the first time since last year's famous special election, the DCCC is returning to Georgia's 6th, albeit with a fairly small $134,000 media buy. However, Everytown for Gun Safety, which has already spent millions on behalf of Democrat Lucy McBath's effort to unseat GOP Rep. Karen Handel, is coming in with another $375,000: $315,000 on ads and $60,000 for mail.
● IL-14: Mike Bloomberg's Independence USA is throwing in $672,000 on TV and digital to help Democrat Lauren Underwood defeat Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren. They'd previously spent $1.4 million here.
● MN-08: Even though the DCCC triaged this race weeks ago, the pro-GOP America First Action has plunked down another $1.2 million to boost Republican Pete Stauber in his bid to flip this open seat, which is being defended by Democrat Joe Radinovich. (House Majority PAC, however, did put in $271,000 about a week ago.)
● NC-02, TX-23: EMILY's List has added $400,000 in North Carolina's 2nd and $227,000 in Texas' 23rd.
● PA-01: Planned Parenthood is spending $734,000, all on digital ads going after Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who faces Democrat Scott Wallace.
● Ballot Measures: Stephen Wolf takes a look at the biggest November ballot measures that pertain to election methods, voting rights, redistricting, and campaign finance, covering 32 measures across 16 states and nine cities or counties. These measures include redistricting reform in four states, a measure that could take Michigan from being one of the worst states for voting access to one of the best, and a Florida ballot amendment that could result in the largest expansion of suffrage since the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. However, not all measures are positive, and North Carolina Republicans put several deceptively worded ones on the ballot to undermine free and fair elections.
● Poll Closing Times: The biennial Daily Kos Elections poll closing times map is back! Bookmark this colorful map to help you follow the returns on election night, and know that you're in good company: This is the map used by Nancy Pelosi herself. At our link, you'll find versions for every U.S. time zone, as well as special version to aid those who are color-blind. And be sure to check back in at Daily Kos Elections when the first polls start closing at 6 PM ET on election night for our liveblog of all of the key races for the 2018 midterms!