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.
● GA-Gov: SurveyUSA has conducted a poll of the general election in Georgia, and their hypothetical matchups find a very close race. The pollster gives Republican Brian Kemp a 46-44 lead over Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, while fellow Republican Casey Cagle leads her by a similar 45-43 margin. SurveyUSA's prior poll from shortly before the May primary found Cagle with a 46-41 edge over Abrams, so these latest results are a marginal improvement for Democrats if accurate, but there have been very few polls of this contest to-date.
In Tuesday's GOP primary runoff, SurveyUSA has Kemp up by 40-34, which is consistent with other polls showing Kemp pulling into the lead this month after Cagle won a 39-26 plurality in the May primary. However, it's worth noting that this poll was in the field from July 15 to July 19, meaning part of it was conducted after Trump endorsed Kemp.
Meanwhile, Kemp is the subject of some unflattering recent news after ProPublica's Robert Faturechi reported on offensive comments he made during the 2016 presidential campaign. According to Faturechi, he was at a Kansas hunting lodge where Kemp, other Republican secretaries of state, and corporate donors were watching a presidential debate that was held just two days after the Access Hollywood tape was released. He says Kemp joked, "Trump should have gone over there and groped [Hillary Clinton]," apparently not realizing that Faturechi was a reporter.
Race Ratings Changes
● IA-03: Lean Republican → Tossup
● IL-13: Likely Republican → Lean Republican
● NJ-02: Likely Democratic → Safe Democratic
You can bookmark our chart to track the second-quarter fundraising reports in all of the competitive Senate races. Our House fundraising chart can be found here.
● FL-Sen: Rick Scott (R): $7.7 million raised, $14 million self-funded, $4.5 million cash-on-hand
● AZ-Sen: Rep. Martha McSally's latest TV ad ahead of next month's Republican primary highlights her support for Donald Trump's immigration policies, including building a border wall, and features a clip of Trump calling her a "friend" and "the real deal."
● MT-Sen: The Club for Growth has made a $600,000 TV ad buy to air their first ad against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in Montana. Their spot plays a 2006 election debate clip where Tester called out then-GOP Sen. Conrad Burns for repeatedly voting to raise the debt limit and then labels Tester a hypocrite for also repeatedly voting to raise the debt limit himself once in office.
● NE-Sen: Democrat Jane Raybould is waging a longshot campaign against Republican Sen. Deb Fischer, but she's smartly going on the attack in her first TV ad of the race. The spot features a dairy farmer, Ben Steffen, who identifies himself as a "lifelong Republican" but says he's "frustrated" with Fischer because she's let down farmers like himself. In particular, he cites the fact that Fischer failed to join the Senate Agriculture Committee when Nebraska's other senator, Ben Sasse, abruptly left it last year, marking the first time in almost half a century that the state had no representation on the committee. Steffen also criticizes Fischer for not "looking out for us on trade" and for endangering rural hospitals, saying she's "lost my vote."
● Senate: The Mitch McConnell-aligned group One Nation has unveiled its plans to spend big on behalf of Republicans in several key Senate races starting next month:
IN-Sen: Joe Donnelly (D): $3.4 million
MO-Sen: Claire McCaskill (D): $4.2 million
ND-Sen: Heidi Heitkamp (D): $682,000
NV-Sen: Dean Heller (R): $4.6 million
TN-Sen: OPEN (R): $3.2 million
These states are largely either swing states or red states with Democratic incumbents, but the inclusion of the open GOP-held seat in Tennessee is still notable due to how red the Volunteer State is.
● IA-Gov: We now have campaign finance reports for the six weeks after the June 5 primary, and Democrat Fred Hubbell continues to be a prodigious fundraiser. He raised $2.6 million without any self-funding, which was more than double the $1.2 million that Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds raised. However, since Hubbell had to spend heavily to win the primary while Reynolds faced no intraparty challenger, she was able to maintain a $3.6 million to $2 million advantage in cash-on-hand.
Reynolds may be feeling the heat, however, and she recently launched her first negative TV ad against Hubbell. The spot features residents of small towns who blast Hubbell for closing stores and laying people off in their rural towns when he was was chairman of Younkers department stores three decades ago, and they criticize him for supposedly giving himself a $90,000 raise after people lost their jobs.
However, Hubbell has argued that Younkers actually created more than a thousand new jobs under his tenure, which was an increase of more than 33 percent in their workforce. Furthermore, that $90,000 "raise" was because Hubbell got promoted to become president of Equitable of Iowa, which was Younkers' parent company, and it happened three years before the store closings the ad references. Making this ad even more bogus, Iowa Starting Line uncovered that the supposedly ordinary folks in the ad are actually Republican Party officials.
● MI-Gov: Former state Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer new spot focuses on her call to "fix the damn roads." Whitmer is shown driving and telling the audience that things are so bad, the average driver needs to spend over $500 a year on repairs, and she just had to fix her windshield for the second time in two years.
● MN-Gov: Rep. Tim Walz has launched his first TV ad ahead of next month's Democratic primary. Walz says, "As a teacher and football coach, I taught my students to stand up to bullies," arguing that he'll stand up to Trump and his disastrous policies. He calls for a Minnesota "where everybody gets a fair shot." Walz is also getting some support from Minnesota Victory PAC, whose latest ad also highlights his background as a teacher and veteran. They contend he won't let Republican Tim Pawlenty "take us backwards" and will instead fight for smaller class sizes and a healthcare public option.
Meanwhile, Lori Swanson's second Democratic primary ad touts her work as state attorney general, which she says involved taking on Wall Street, predatory drug companies, and corporate polluters. She promises to work to lower healthcare costs and make schools safe.
● CA-22: GOP Rep. Devin Nunes has launched an ad that runs well over two-minutes railing against the media, and Politico reports that it's airing on TV as well as online. Nunes trains his fire on The Fresno Bee, which is the dominant newspaper in his Central Valley seat and has endorsed him in each campaign for Congress. Nunes uses the spot to whine without any evidence, "Sadly, since the last election, The Fresno Bee has worked closely with radical left-wing groups to promote numerous fake news stories about me."
● FL-26: A group called Equity Forward Action is spending what they say is a six-figure buy against GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Their Spanish-language issue ad faults him for failing to end Trump's child separation crisis, with the narrator declaring Curbelo "has failed to deliver results. Now we need him to act."
● IA-03: GOP Rep. David Young has been a tough target for Democrats in the last two cycles, and he initially seemed to have a decided advantage in a swingy Des Moines district that flipped from Obama to Trump in 2016. Although Democrats lost their apparent frontrunner after she failed to make it onto the June primary the ballot, businesswoman Cindy Axne won the Democratic nomination in a surprise landslide and even outraised Young last quarter.
Despite Iowa's sharp right turn two years ago, special elections since then have indicated that Trump-voting Democrats may be returning to their roots in 2018. One big Democratic super PAC, the House Majority PAC, seems to agree, reserving $600,000 worth of TV time for November. Notably, Young hasn't responded to a recent Axne poll that had her leading 45-41. If he has an advantage, it's a small one, which is why we're moving this race from Lean Republican to Tossup.
● IL-13: Republican Rep. Rodney Davis has had little trouble winning re-election the last two cycles as his swingy downstate Illinois district trended to the right, and he initially appeared to be a heavy favorite to win a fourth term. But Davis benefitted from the GOP wave in 2014 and a weak opponent last cycle. This time, he's facing a much stronger challenger in businesswoman Betsy Londrigan, who has proven to be a capable fundraiser.
He's also facing a much tougher political environment than in any prior race, with the added burden of unpopular GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner at the top of the ticket. This is also yet another swingy Midwestern district of the sort we've seen snap back toward Democrats in special elections. Davis is a savvy campaigner, he has a financial edge, and Londrigan still has much work to do. But it won't be as easy for the incumbent as it once looked, so we're changing our rating from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.
● KS-02: Kansans Can Do Anything, a super PAC funded by the father of Army veteran Steve Watkins, is spending another $174,000 on his behalf ahead of the Aug. 7 GOP primary.
● MI-11: Kyle Melinn of MIRS News has graciously shared a pair of House Democratic primary polls they commissioned from Target-Insyght.
In the competitive open 11th District, they give Haley Stevens, who served as chief of staff to Barack Obama's Auto Task Force, a 21-15 edge against businessman Suneel Gupta. State Rep. Tim Greimel is just behind with 14, while former Detroit Director of Immigration Affairs Fayrouz Saad takes 7. The only other poll we've seen of the Aug. 7 primary was an April Target-Insyght poll that found Stevens edging Gupta 14-13, while Greimel took 8; we haven't seen any data from the GOP contest.
While Gupta takes second in MIRS' recent poll, he ended June with a big cash lead over the rest of the field. Gupta led Greimel $800,000 to $456,000 in cash-on-hand, while Stevens and Saad had $340,000 and $314,000, respectively. Stevens' campaign tells us that they made a $241,000 TV reservation in May in order to lock in ad time before it became more expensive.
The money race is much more lopsided on the GOP side. Businesswoman Lena Epstein, who has self-funded much of her campaign, held a wide $658,000 to $145,000 cash-on-hand lead over former state Rep. Rocky Raczkowski. State Sen. Mike Kowall, who has the support of much of the local establishment, had $138,000 in the bank, while state Rep. Klint Kesto had just $20,000. Finally, ex-Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, who accidentally represented this seat in 2013 and 2014, had $86.00 to spend (not a typo).
● MI-13: On behalf of MIRS, Target-Insyght also takes a look at the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat, and they find a very tight contest. Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones has a tiny 21-20 lead over Westland Mayor Bill Wild, while former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib is just behind with 19. A bit further back is state Sen. Coleman Young II, who badly lost last year's race for mayor of Detroit. State Sen. Ian Conyers, a grandnephew of former Rep. John Conyers, takes 8, while former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson brings up the rear at 4. This is the first poll we've seen here.
At the end of June, Tlaib posted a $219,000 to $100,000 cash-on-hand lead over Wild. Conyers had $61,000 to spend to Jones' $54,000, while Young had just $6,000 in the bank; Jackson has yet to report raising anything. However, Jones does have Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in her corner, which could help her get her name out. (Update: This post has been corrected to reflect that Duggan has endorsed Jones, not Jackson.) Wild is the only notable white candidate in a seat where African-Americans make up a large share of the primary electorate (48 percent of this poll's sample identified as black while 39 percent was white), but he could do well in a contest with a number of prominent black candidates.
Tlaib, who would be the first Muslim-American woman to ever serve in Congress, is also going on the air with what we believe is the first TV spot from any of the candidates. Tlaib tells the audience she's the eldest of 14 children and has "been fighting for working families my entire life." She goes on to say she got toxic waste removed after the Koch brothers dumped it on the Detroit waterfront, and "when billionaire Matty Moroun wouldn't follow the law, I fought and got thousands of semi-trucks off of our neighborhood streets."
● MT-AL: Democrat Kathleen Williams uses her first TV ad to call for new leadership from both parties in Congress. Williams tells the audience that, since Speaker Paul Ryan is retiring, the GOP will have a new leader. She adds that "Democrats also need a fresh start. That's why I won't be voting for Nancy Pelosi for leader."
● NH-01: On Friday, Rep. Annie Kuster endorsed state Executive Councilor Chris Pappas in the September Democratic primary. Pappas already has Sen. Maggie Hassan and a number of major unions in his corner.
● NJ-02: Confronted with an endless series of racist, sexist, and anti-Muslim remarks that Republican attorney Seth Grossman had made over the years, the NRCC finally abandoned him earlier this month and said it wouldn't support his campaign to keep New Jersey's open 2nd District in GOP hands. Now that second quarter fundraising reports are in, we know that Grossman has no hope of making up the difference: He raised just $74,000—during a timeframe in which he faced a contested primary!—and had only $56,000 on hand. Democratic state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, meanwhile, took in $540,000 and finished with $675,000 in the bank.
It's amazing to watch Republicans forfeit a district that Donald Trump won, but at the same time, it's no surprise that fatally flawed candidates continue to sabotage the GOP. It's conceivable that, just as they did with Trump himself in 2016, Republicans could bury the disgust they claim to feel and decide to support Grossman after all. But based on the facts as they stand, we're counting this seat as a pickup and moving it from Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic.
● NY-22: GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney is up with her first spot against Democrat Anthony Brindisi. While Brindisi has pledged not to support Nancy Pelosi for speaker, Tenney's spot immediately ties the two together. The narrator declares, "Under Nancy Pelosi and Anthony Brindisi, our economy crashed." Yes, Tenney really wants the audience to think that Brindisi somehow caused the Great Recession even though in 2008 he was ... running for the Utica School Board. The rest of the ad argues that Tenney is fighting for Trump's agenda.
Brindisi went up with two spots of his own. The first spot features his kids arguing he's worked across party lines in the state Assembly to bring jobs to upstate New York. The other commercial quickly dismisses Tenney's attack ad as false, declaring he helped combat corruption in his own party. The narrator also says Brindisi won't support Pelosi, before the candidate calls for new leadership in both parties.
● WA-05: Democrat Lisa Brown's newest spot features several people assailing GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with one woman saying that the congresswoman broke her pledge not to scrap it until there was a replacement. Another woman says her insurance "has gone up to $2,000 a month." The fact that Brown is even running this kind of ad in a seat that went for Trump by a 52-39 margin is another sign about how dramatically the politics of health care have changed since 2016.
● WA-08: We won't bury the lede: Attorney Jason Rittereiser, who is one of three credible Democrats competing in the Aug. 7 top-two primary for this competitive seat, uses his first TV spot to call Trump out for treason.
Rittereiser begins by arguing that this race is a choice between "Trump supporter Dino Rossi," who is the presumptive GOP nominee, and "someone who will stand up to this administration." He goes on to say that he became a criminal prosecutor to protect people and the country, but "we just witnessed President Trump denounce American law enforcement and let Russia get away with attacking our nation." Rittereiser continues, "Here in Ellensburg, we call that treason," and calls for changing Congress before it's too late.