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.
● HI-Gov: Mason-Dixon has conducted a rare poll of Hawaii's Aug. 11 Democratic primary and November general elections on behalf of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and their primary survey surprisingly has Gov. David Ige up 44-40 over Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. That result is a huge reversal from their March survey, where he trailed by a 47-27 blowout.
Indeed, this is the first publicly available poll of the race to see Ige in the lead, but polling has been quite limited. While it's rare for a governor to lose renomination, Ige has looked like the underdog for a long time against the well-known and better-connected Hanabusa, and the false ballistic missile warning that the state sent out in January only seemed to intensify his problems.
However, Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker suggests that, since the March poll came just weeks after the false alert, that survey found Ige at a temporary low point he recovered from as more time passed. Coker also speculated that Ige recovered as memories faded about that incident and voters started to give the governor credit for his handling of the ongoing Kilauea volcano eruption. However, we don't have enough data to say if Ige's position really has improved over the last few months, and Hawaii has proven to be a particularly tough state to poll.
Hanabusa's campaign is out with their own survey arguing that Ige is still very much in trouble with a month to go. The QMark survey, which was released around the same time that the Mason-Dixon survey came out, gives Hanabusa a huge 57-31 lead. That margin is not very different than the 52-23 lead she posted in QMark's May poll.
Meanwhile, the general election doesn't look like it will be all that competitive. Among the six matchups tested by Mason-Dixon with Hanabusa or Ige against one of the various unheralded candidates on the GOP side, the only one that isn't a total rout still sees Hanabusa with a 48-35 lead over state House Minority Leader Andria Tupola.
You can bookmark our chart to track the second-quarter fundraising reports in all of the competitive Senate races, and check back soon for our complete House roundup.
● MI-Sen: Debbie Stabenow (D-inc): $1.9 million raised, $9.6 million cash-on-hand
● NJ-Sen: Bob Menendez (D-inc): $2.5 million raised, $6.4 million cash-on-hand
● ND-Sen: Kevin Cramer (R): $1.5 million raised, $2.4 million cash-on-hand
● TN-Sen: Phil Bredesen (D): $2.43 million raised, additional $2 million self-funded; Marsha Blackburn (R): $2.6 million raised, $7.3 million cash-on-hand
● AZ-Sen: Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema's latest ad is a Spanish-language spot where she speaks in Spanish herself. Sinema bemoans the dysfunction in Washington and touts her own independence as the narrator asserts she has solutions to Arizona's problems.
On the other side, KelliPAC, which you'd never guess supports former state Sen. Kelli Ward, is spending $447,000 on a new media buy ahead of the Aug. 28 GOP primary. We do not have a copy of their spot yet.
● CA-Sen: The California Democratic Party has endorsed state Sen. Kevin de Leon for the all-Democratic general election over long-time Sen. Dianne Feinstein. De Leon had previously won a majority at the February party convention, but his 54 percent had been short of the 60 percent needed for a formal endorsement ahead of the June primary. However, Saturday's executive committee meeting saw him win 65 percent of the vote from party leaders and elected delegates, securing the party's formal backing in his uphill race against the incumbent.
● MI-Sen: A group called the Outsider PAC has launched a TV ad to support businessman John James in the Aug. 7 Republican primary against venture capitalist Sandy Pensler. The commercial uses clips of Pensler dissing Trump even after he took office, and the narrator says James will be a stalwart ally of Trump on issues like immigration.
● ND-Sen: Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer's latest ad tries to dispute the claims from the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC that he advocated cutting Medicare and Social Security to pay for Trump's tax cuts for the rich by citing a fact check from local news station KVLY that called the accusation false. However, Cramer has indeed explicitly called for benefits cuts via measures like raising the eligibility age or means-testing benefits.
Meanwhile, the NRSC has debuted its first TV ad of the cycle, attacking Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. They accuse her of "hiding" her real positions, and they play a clip of a speech she once gave in 2015 where she was effusively supporting Hillary Clinton for president.
● NJ-Sen: Republican Bob Hugin is already on the receiving end of ads arguing he massively hiked prices on life-saving drugs when he was a pharmaceutical executive, and he's now out with a commercial that frames his old career in a far more positive light. The ad features a father describing how their insurance company denied his 6-year-old son any coverage when he contracted a cancerous brain tumor, but Hugin and his company "stepped in." He goes on to say that for Hugin, "It's not the drugs, it's not the profits, it's a very personal thing for Bob Hugin."
● WI-Sen: The super PAC CFG Action Wisconsin, which is affiliated with the national Club for Growth, recently launched both a positive spot for businessman Kevin Nicholson as well as a negative ad against state Sen. Leah Vukmir in the Aug. 14 GOP primary. The group initially put about $260,000 behind their TV buys, but they soon added another $1.8 million to the purchase. The buys come a few weeks after GOP mega donor Richard Uihlein, who is already funding a different pro-Nicholson super PAC, donated $2 million to CFG Action Wisconsin.
● FL-Gov: St. Pete Polls has conducted a survey of Florida's Democratic gubernatorial primary on behalf of Florida Politics, and the results are very unlike what previous pollsters have found. Their poll has former Rep. Gwen Graham tied 22-22 against billionaire developer Jeff Greene, while former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine takes 19 and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum earns 10. Every other publicly available poll has found Greene far behind, but he just recently started running ads after making a late entry into the primary last month. St. Pete has had some glaring misses in past cycles, but it's possible Greene's ads are having an effect.
Regardless, Graham has launched a new ad as part of a $3.85 million buy that began in early June. Similarly to her previous ads, her latest spot plays up her background as a mom and former PTA president. She blasts Republicans for opposing Medicaid expansion and for inadequately funding education.
● GA-Gov: On Monday, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal gave his backing to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle ahead of next week's GOP primary runoff against Secretary of State Brian Kemp. However, Cagle wasn't the only one to garner a notable endorsement: Former state Sen. Hunter Hill, who came in third in the May primary with 18 percent, backed Kemp on Sunday. Hill's move is unsurprising in light of a previously leaked recording in which Cagle openly admitted he had backed what he called a "bad" bill solely to deter a super PAC from supporting Hill with millions in campaign spending.
Meanwhile, the Cagle-aligned Changing Georgia's Future has launched a weird new TV ad that can be best summed up by the first line in the writeup from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
"A 1970s softcore porn or a campaign attack ad? The latest TV spot in the Georgia governor's race seems like a bit of both."
Don't worry, this ad is safe for work, but the innuendo is inescapable. The segment consists of an actor impersonating Brian Kemp at a massage parlor, where he disrobes and a man gives him a massage as the soundtrack, caption font, and video colors all invoke the '70s. The ad's theme is, "You can't massage the truth," as its narrator accuses Kemp of failing to revoke licenses of a business with a "series of sexual assault complaints," noting that they and others companies like them contributed heavily to his campaign. The ad closes with the masseuse handing the Kemp actor a stack of money and saying, "You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours."
● CT-05: While Republicans talked about putting this western Connecticut seat into play after Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty retired over her inadequate handling of an abusive aide, none of their three contenders in the Aug. 14 primary are exactly hauling in cash. The GOP candidate with the most money at the end of June was retired psychology professor Ruby O'Neill, who had $103,000 in the bank. However, O'Neill only raised $30,000 from donors and self-funded another $81,000.
Still, that's considerably better than former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos, who has the state party endorsement but only $5,100 on-hand. The third candidate, businessman Rich DuPont, had $56,000 in the bank after raising $35,000 and self-funding another $45,000. This seat went from 54-45 Obama to 50-46 Clinton and outgoing Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy's unpopularity could still give the GOP an opening, but it just doesn't look like any of the Republicans are bringing in the type of cash they'd need to win in an otherwise tough year for Team Red.
The Democratic primary pits former Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman, who narrowly won the state party endorsement, against 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes. Glassman outraised Hayes $378,000 to $300,000 during their first quarter in the race, and she had a small $270,000 to $254,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of June.
Glassman is also the first candidate to go on TV a month ahead of the primary. The spot features Glassman calling for more manufacturing jobs, investing in public schools, and protecting Social Security from Donald Trump.
● FL-15: State Rep. Ross Spano picked up an endorsement from Sen. Marco Rubio last week ahead of the Aug. 28 GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Dennis Ross.
Spano posted a 32-20 lead over former state Rep. Neil Combee in a recent St. Pete Polls survey, and he had a small cash edge on June 30. Combee actually outraised Spano $129,000 to $112,000 during their first quarter in the contest, but Spano lent himself another $45,000; at the end of June, Spano led Combee $108,000 to $86,000 on cash-on-hand. Three other candidates are running, but none of them took more than 4 percent of the vote in the recent poll or have much money. The best funded of this trio is nonprofit head Danny Kushmer, who had only $54,000 on-hand.
This central Florida seat went from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump, but Democrats are hoping to put it in play. Attorney Kristen Carlson entered the race after Ross retired in April and raised $174,000, which is more than any of the Republicans took in. Carlson also self-funded another $75,000, and she ended June with $193,000 in the bank. Her main foe is Navy veteran Andrew Learned, who had been running against Ross for several months. Learned took in $101,000 during this quarter, which is almost as much as he raised from May to March, and he had $65,000 in the bank.
● FL-17: Last week, state Sen. Greg Steube secured the NRA's support in the Aug. 28 GOP primary for this safely red Sarasota-area seat. The state senator has made his name by trying to loosen any restrictions on firearms, so the NRA endorsing Steube is about as surprising as flies endorsing a garbage can. Meanwhile, Steube's allies at the anti-tax Club for Growth have announced that they've reserved $400,000 in TV time to help him in next month's primary against state Rep. Julio Gonzalez.
The Club's spending could play a big role in a primary where both candidates ended June with a comparable amount of money in the bank. While Steube didn't bring in much cash during the first three months of 2018, he stepped things up considerably from April to June and outraised Gonzalez $337,000 to $233,000. Gonzalez still had a $349,000 to $313,000 cash-on-hand edge, but that's considerably smaller than the $230,000 to $56,000 edge he enjoyed at the end of March.
● HI-01: Last week, Lt. Gov. Doug Chin picked up an endorsement from the American Federation of Government Employees ahead of the Aug. 11 Democratic primary.
● IA-03: Democrat Cindy Axne has released a poll from Anzalone Liszt Grove Research giving her a small 45-41 lead over GOP Rep. David Young. This is the first general election poll we've seen since the early June Democratic primary for this competitive Des Moines area seat.
The good news for Team Red is that Young ended June with a wide $1.4 million to $465,000 cash-on-hand lead over Axne, who had less than a month to restock her war chest after a competitive primary. However, Axne did outraise Young $658,000 to $539,000 during the quarter, so she may be able to close that gap.
● KS-03: Former labor attorney Brent Welder is out with what we believe is his first TV spot ahead of the Aug. 7 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder. Welder, who worked as a field staffer on the 2008 Obama campaign, tells the audience he "worked with Barack Obama to fight for change." The candidate goes on to say he supports expanding Medicare and banning assault weapons, and says he's "spent my life fighting the corrupt system in Washington," adding he "wrote the Democratic Party amendment to ban corporate money from campaigns."
● MI-06: Physician Matt Longjohn is out with his first TV spot ahead of the Aug. 7 Democratic primary. Longjohn begins his spot at a gym declaring that Trump "believes that, besides golf, exercise is bad for you." He continues at a clinic and days that GOP Rep. Fred Upton "believes cutting healthcare is good for you."
Longjohn explains that when he worked at the national YMCA he build "health programs that helped millions live healthier lives," and says he's running "to fight for universal healthcare and lower prescription drug costs." Longjohn concludes by saying he's running to get Washington back into shape, and the candidate adds, "Even him" just before the notorious 2016 Cinco De Mayo picture of Trump and his taco bowl fills the screen.
● MI-11: The American Federation of Government Employees has endorsed state Rep. Tim Greimel in the Aug. 7 Democratic primary.
● OH-12: With three weeks to go before the Aug. 7 special election, Democrat Danny O'Connor is out with a GBA Strategies poll showing him trailing Republican Troy Balderson 48-43, with Green Party candidate Joe Manchik taking 5. The O'Connor campaign included the numbers from a month-old GBA poll they had not previously released that showed Balderson up 48-41 to argue they're gaining ground, though this really isn't much of a change.
● PA-08: Republican John Chrin has launched his first general election ad, and Roll Call says he's put $50,000 behind it. Chrin, who launched his campaign against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright while still living in an ultra-wealthy community in New Jersey, uses this commercial to play up his Pennsylvania heritage and pledge to fight for jobs, "quality affordable healthcare, and banning sanctuary cities."
● TN-02: We haven't previously mentioned Tennessee Air National Guard Lt. Col. Ashley Nickloes in the Aug. 2 GOP primary for this safely red East Tennessee seat, but it looks like she has the resources to get her name out. Nickloes raised $147,000 during the last quarter (which is, shall we say, a strong improvement over the zero cents she raised in the previous three months), though she ended June with just $77,000 in the bank.
Nickloes has also launched her first TV ad, which Roll Call says is running for 550 gross ratings points. (We explain what those are in this post.) The spot begins with Nickloes declaring, "A lot of career politicians are a bunch of yahoos. Me, I fly missions across the globe as a combat aviator." Nickloes goes on to pledge to work with Trump and concludes, "It's time for American grit, not Washington wimps."
Nickloes is the only woman in the primary for this Knoxville-area seat, but she's hardly the best-funded candidate in the contest to succeed retiring Rep. Jimmy Duncan. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett had a small $239,000 to $232,000 cash-on-hand edge over state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, who has Duncan's endorsement, at the end of June. Businessman Jason Emert, who has mostly been self-funding his campaign, was a bit behind with $182,000 in the bank.
Burchett is also out with a new spot where he declares that "everyone says they're for Trump, but I'm the only candidate who supported Donald Trump in the 2016 primary." Burchett goes on to claim he took on "the tax-hikers and bid spenders" as mayor, and "fought to ban illegal immigrants over immigrants."
● TX-23: GOP Rep. Will Hurd is a very strong fundraiser and it won't be easy to oust him in this competitive seat, but Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones is proving to be a fundraising powerhouse of her own. Ortiz Jones outraised Hurd $1.23 million (here and here) to $684,000 during the second quarter of 2018, which is just an astounding total for a House candidate. Hurd still enjoyed a wide $2 million to $1.15 million cash-on-hand edge at the end of June, so he's certainly not going down quietly. However, Jones will have the resources to get her message out.
Ortiz Jones is doing that now by launching her first general election spot. Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, begins by telling the audience, "No one asked me to serve in Iraq. I did it because it was the right thing to do." She continues by saying that no one asked her to come home when her mother had cancer, "I just knew I had to." Ortiz Jones then says no one asked her to run for Congress but "here I am. Because I don't need a party or anyone to tell me what's right for Texas. I'll just do it."
● TX-31: Air Force veteran MJ Hegar will need a whole lot to go right as she works to oust longtime GOP Rep. John Carter in a suburban Austin seat that went from 60-38 Romney to 54-41 Trump, but money will no longer be a problem for her.
Hegar didn't attract much national attention during most of her campaign, but all that changed in late June when Hegar released her now-famous a web video. The spot, titled "Doors," featured Hegar recounting her life, including growing up in an abusive household, becoming an Air Force pilot, saving her passengers after her medevac helicopter was shot down by the Taliban, and suing the Pentagon over their now-defunct policy that prevented women from serving in ground combat positions.
The video went viral, and she got more than just clicks. Hegar raised an astounding $1.1 million for the quarter, with her campaign saying that $750,000 of that haul came in the 10 days after she released her video. By contrast, Carter brought in $266,000 over the last three months. At the end of June, Hegar held an $867,000 to $538,000 cash-on-hand lead over the eight-term incumbent: Three months before, Carter led her $351,000 to $141,000. EMILY's List also endorsed Hegar last week, which could give her access to more donors.
● WI-01: Ironworker Randy Bryce's newest ad for the Aug. 14 Democratic primary features him aiming and firing a rifle as he tells the audience that he was an expert shot in the Army but doesn't "respect the NRA profit machine that lets guns into the hands of criminals and the mentally ill time and time again."