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.
● WI-Gov: Marist is out with polls of the gubernatorial and Senate races in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin on behalf of NBC, and we'll start with the most eye-popping result: GOP Gov. Scott Walker trails state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers by a huge 54-41 margin.
Wisconsin Democrats have lost three gubernatorial races to Walker, and the idea of watching him go down in flames in 2018 would be a dream come true. However, as much as we hate to harsh on progressive dreams, we always caution that when a poll seems too good to be true, it probably is. We wouldn't be being honest if we didn't sound a similar note of warning here.
So, what do we actually know? Polling has been limited here, but a survey last month from Marquette, which has a strong record for accuracy in its home state of Wisconsin, gave Walker a small 48-44 edge over Evers. Meanwhile, a PPP poll for Evers himself from May did give him a 49-45 lead on Walker, but that's still a considerably smaller edge than what Marist thinks is the case.
And while politics in the age of Trump is notoriously volatile, it's unlikely that, even if Evers' internal was spot-on, his lead has jumped so dramatically in the last two months. That's not a whole lot of data to work with, but it certainly feels like Marist is the odd pollster out here.
There's also one other big reason to at least be skeptical of this new set of polls. As Elliott Morris points out, Marist did not weight their samples by education level. Daily Kos Elections' David Jarman explained last year that one of the biggest reasons that state-level polls badly underestimated Donald Trump in 2016 was that pollsters didn't anticipate such a giant gulf between the voting preferences of college-educated voters and non-college educated voters.
And because college-educated voters tend to be more likely to answer polls, this was a huge problem in 2016. Democrats were especially frustrated in the Midwest, and Wisconsin was no different. While the HuffPost Pollster average gave Hillary Clinton a 46-40 lead, Trump ended up narrowly carrying the state. There's no reason to think polls will necessarily misfire again in 2018, but Democrats should still be cautious about surveys that don't account for education after being badly burned two years ago.
Marist also took a look at the Aug. 14 Democratic primary, and they found Evers far ahead of his many rivals with 25 percent of the vote; campaign finance reform activist Mike McCabe and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout are a distant second with 7 percent each. A July poll from Marquette had Evers leading with 31 percent while everyone else was stuck in the single digits.
● AZ-Sen: The Democratic group Priorities USA has launched a $1.25 million digital ad buy against Rep. Martha McSally. The spot attacks McSally, who is the frontrunner in the Aug. 28 GOP primary, on healthcare.
● CA-Sen: The Public Policy Institute of California is out with their first look at this all-Democratic general election, and they give Sen. Dianne Feinstein a 46-24 lead over state Sen. Kevin de Leon. Only 9 percent are undecided, while another 20 percent of respondents volunteer that they would skip voting in this race. If that the group (who are predominantly Republicans) actually carry through and don't vote in this contest, Feinstein's lead would be 58-30.
● FL-Sen: Florida Atlantic University: Rick Scott (R): 44, Bill Nelson (D-inc): 40 (May: 44-40 Scott)
● IN-Sen: Senate Majority PAC is out with another spot portraying Republican Mike Braun as a greedy businessman and terrible boss. The narrator declares that "denied overtime to workers who earned it" and "was accused of firing workers who reported mistreatment," and once again says that he sells auto parts made in China.
● MI-Sen, MN-Sen-B, WI-Sen: Marist took a look at the Senate contests in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin for NBC, and the results are all very positive for the Democratic incumbents:
MI-Sen: Debbie Stabenow (D-inc): 55, John James (R): 37
MI-Sen: Debbie Stabenow (D-inc): 52, Sandy Pensler (R): 37
MN-Sen-B: Tina Smith (D-inc): 49, Karin Housley (R): 35
WI-Sen: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): 54, Kevin Nicholson (R): 39
WI-Sen: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): 55, Leah Vukmir (R): 38
There haven't been many reliable polls out of Michigan, but neither national party is acting like Stabenow is in much trouble. The only other survey we've seen of the Minnesota special election was from GOP pollster BK Strategies for the conservative blog Outstate, and it gave Smith a 48-39 lead at the end of June. Finally, a June Marquette poll found Baldwin leading Nicholson 50-39, while she had a slightly-smaller 49-40 edge against Vukmir.
Marist also gives us a look at the GOP primaries in Michigan and Wisconsin (Housey has no serious opposition in Minnesota.) In the Wolverine State, James edges Pensler 30-23, though a poll from EPIC-MRA for the Detroit Free Press released Thursday found James ahead by a narrow 39-38 margin. In Wisconsin, Marist has Nicholson leading Vukmir 38-28.
● MS-Sen-B: GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is making the most of her big financial edge to go on TV well ahead of her rivals. Her latest spot is narrated by Gov. Phil Bryant, who describes how he worked closely with her before he appointed her to the Senate and praises her as a "rock solid conservative."
While plenty of establishment Republicans fretted that state Sen. Chris McDaniel's campaign would cause Hyde-Smith problems in the November special election, he's having trouble raising money or attracting influential allies. Hyde-Smith outraised her fellow Republican $1.6 million to $272,000 during the second quarter of 2018, and she held an imposing $1.4 million to $156,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of June. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also has spent $1 million here so far, while no major outside groups have come in to aid McDaniel.
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy raised $308,000 for the quarter and had $281,000 in the bank.
● MT-Sen, NV-Sen: Politico reports that the progressive group End Citizens United has made TV reservations in Montana and Nevada. They're committing $1.5 million to support Montana Sen. Jon Tester in a buy that will last from July 31st to Sept. 3, as well as another $500,000 in digital buys and mail. In Nevada, they are spending $1.7 million on TV against GOP Sen. Dean Heller from Aug. 1 to Aug. 17, as well as a $350,000 digital buy.
● WV-Sen: On Thursday, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner refused to approve disgraced coal magnate Don Blankenship for a place on the general election ballot as the candidate of the Constitution Party. Warner, a Republican, cited the state's "sore loser" law, which prohibits candidates who were defeated in a primary from running in the general election.
Blankenship, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in May, said before he turned in his petitions that he expected to be denied and he would take the matter to court. A Blankenship spokesperson also reiterated after Warner's denial that they planned to challenge the ruling.
As we've written before, it is possible that Blankenship will be able to argue the sore loser law doesn't apply in this instance. While legislators passed a law earlier this year that makes it much clearer that those who lose a primary can't turn around and petition their way onto the general election ballot, that new law didn't take effect until late June, fully a month after Blankenship lost the primary.
However, if this decision stands, it will give Republican Patrick Morrisey some good news. A June poll from the Democratic firm PPP found Manchin beating Morrissey 46-35 with Blankenship at 11, but gave the Republican a smaller 49-42 deficit without Blankenship on the ballot. An independent poll from Monmouth also found that Manchin's margin over Morrisey was 2 points wider with Blankenship on the ballot than without him, though the Republican still trailed.
● Senate: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC has announced that they're committing a total of at least $20 million to voter turnout through their affiliated nonprofit Majority Forward. While the New York Times says the money will go to 13 states, the spending will be focused on four states: Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee.
● HI-Gov: Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is up with a new spot ahead of the Aug. 11 Democratic primary that argues that Gov. David Ige has fallen well short of his claim to have created 5,300 new homes. The narrator says that some of the homes were already under construction when Ige took office, others were approved and underway without any of the governor's involvement, and many were just renovations that added no new housing.
● IA-Gov: GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds recently went up with a spot arguing that Democrat Fred Hubbell left small town Iowa in a lurch by closing stores and laying people off, and he's up with a response commercial.
The narrator declares that when Hubbell ran the Younkers department store chair 30 years ago he "added hundreds of jobs and invested in thousands of employees." She goes on to say that Hubbell and his wife Charlotte have financed "mental health beds and a Planned Parenthood clinic when the state slashed funding." She concludes by hitting Reynolds for cutting funding for Medicaid and mental health care "while giving huge tax breaks to out-of-state companies."
● KS-Gov: On Wednesday, state Senate President Susan Wagle endorsed Secretary of State Kris Kobach over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Aug. 7 GOP primary.
● MI-Gov: Marist pits each party's primary frontrunner (more on the Aug. 7 primaries below) against one another and gives Democrat Gretchen Whitmer a 47-38 lead over Republican Bill Schuette. A late June poll from Target-Insyght for the political newsletter MIRS News gave Whitmer a smaller 42-37 edge.
Both Marist and EPIC-MRA, which polled on behalf of the Detroit Free Press, also released primary polls for both parties. Marist gives Whitmer only a small 31-27 lead over wealthy businessman Shri Thanedar, with former Detroit Health Commissioner Abdul El-Sayed at 22. However, EPIC-MRA finds Whitmer decisively leading Thanedar 49-22, while El-Sayed takes 19. Still, we need to note that the latter poll did not include cell phones, which could be a big issue at a time when more and more voters don't use landlines.
In late June, Target-Insyght had Whitmer leading Thanedar 40-19, with El-Sayed at 17. El-Sayed is hoping that he'll be able to replicate Bernie Sanders poll-defying win in the 2016 presidential primary, and Sanders endorsed him on Wednesday.
On the GOP side, Marist gave Schuette a modest 33-26 lead over Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, with state Sen. Patrick Colbeck at 11. However, EPIC-MRA found Schuette leading Calley by a stronger 42-24, with Colbeck also at 11. Every single poll we've seen has given Schuette the lead, though a recent survey from the GOP firm JMC Analytics had him leading Calley 25-17, which is similar to what Marist found. By contrast, the June Target-Insyght poll found Schuette ahead by a wide 45-16.
● MN-Gov: Marist also gives us a rare look at the Minnesota governor's race. They test former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is the frontrunner in his Aug. 14 GOP primary, against all three Democratic candidates and finds him trailing each:
40-51 vs. Rep. Tim Walz
40-51 vs. Attorney General Lori Swanson
40-48 vs. state Rep. Erin Murphy
The only poll we've seen testing Pawlenty against any Democrats was from GOP pollster BK Strategies for the conservative blog Outstate. In late June they found T-Paw trailing Walz 48-41, while Swanson led 46-41 (Murphy was not tested).
Marist also eyes both parties' primaries. On the GOP side, Pawlenty leads 2014 nominee Jeff Johnson 51-32, a bit larger than the 54-20 lead he had in BK's poll. For Team Blue, Swanson edged Walz only 28-24, while Murphy takes 11. The only poll we've seen of the Democratic contest was a GQR Research survey from late June for allies of Walz, and they had Swanson leading him 37-29, with Murphy at 17.
Note that on the fourth and final day that this Marist poll was in the field, news broke that Rep. Rick Nolan, who is Swanson's running mate, had hired a former aide for his 2016 re-election campaign even though the aide had previously left Nolan's legislative staff after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. Because most of this survey was already done, it would not have captured any impact from this story on the race.
● NV-Gov: Republican Adam Laxalt is out with two new TV ads hitting Democrat Steve Sisolak, and the first comes straight out of the conservative fever swamps.
The commercial begins with pictures and images from a protest as one demonstrator is shown holding a flag upside down and more march with an Antifascist Action (Antifa) flag, and the narrator sums up the scene as "[i]nciting violence in the streets, disrespecting our American flag. The radical left has become unhinged." The spot then ties Sisolak to all this by saying he "enabled the radical Occupy Las Vegas, joined the fanatical resistance movement, and addressed an event that desecrated our American flag." The ad ends with the narrator saying that "may work in California," but not in Nevada.
The Nevada Independent's Michelle Rindels takes a look at the actual events surrounding this ad. In 2011, when the Occupy Las Vegas protests took place, the police and Sisolak's Clark County Commission did help them find an encampment, and he did initially express agreement with their anti-greed message during a visit to the site. However, as the event dragged on for weeks and ended with protestors peacefully allowing the police to arrest them, Sisolak both expressed his disappointment with Occupy and didn't support renewing their permit.
As for the assertion that Sisolak "addressed an event that desecrated our American flag," Rindels writes that he did indeed speak to pro-abortion rights protestors outside of GOP Sen. Dean Heller's office this month. One of the attendees held the flag upside down to symbolize distress, which is something that Laxalt's allies in the tea party did all the time during the Obama years.
The other commercial accuses Sisolak of using his post as chair of the county commission "to try and bulldoze his way to giving contributors favors, costing taxpayers millions." The narrator goes on to declare that Sisolak tried to get a "bloated fat paving contract to one donor," a judge overruled him and said he was acting "corruptly."
Rindels takes a look at this spot as well. She writes that in 2010, the county commission gave a contract to the Las Vegas Paving Corporation, which had donated tens of thousands to Sisolak over the years. A judge did indeed overrule the contract, saying that it was wrong to give the deal to a more expensive unionized company instead of a cheaper non-union group and that the commissioners acted "corruptly" by doing it.
● OK-Gov: Sooner Poll is out with the first poll of the Aug. 28 GOP primary runoff, and they find a 38-38 tie between businessman Kevin Stitt and former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. They also test Democratic nominee Drew Edmondson against both Republicans and find that, while Cornett leads him 43-35, Stitt trails Edmondson by a narrow 40-39 margin.
● CT-05: The Connecticut Mirror reports that Reps. Rosa DeLauro and John Larson recently hosted a fundraiser for former Simsbury First-Selectman Mary Glassman ahead of the Aug. 14 Democratic primary, and that Rep. Joe Courtney and former Sen. Chris Dodd were in attendance.
● FL-06: Businessman Michael Waltz's biggest vulnerability in the Aug. 28 GOP primary is that he appeared in an anti-Trump video during the 2016 presidential primary, so it makes sense that he's hoping to paint one of his rivals as the actual anti-Trump candidate.
Waltz is out with a spot that begins by promoting himself as "pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Trump" combat veteran before the narrator characterizes fellow businessman John Ward as a "liberal hypocrite." She goes on to say that Ward, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton "all support the same liberal politicians who oppose President Trump and support liberal policies."
The commercial doesn't go into any detail about which Democrats Ward helped, though it cites a Florida Politics article that revealed that in 2014, he donated $250 to Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown over successful Republican challenger Lenny Curry (Brown is currently running against Rep. Al Lawson in the Democratic primary for the neighboring 5th District). The third Republican candidate, former state Rep. Fred Costello, goes unmentioned in Waltz's ad.
● KS-02: The Topeka Capital-Journal writes that the super PAC Kansans Can Do Anything has now spent a total of $469,000 in the Aug. 7 GOP primary to support Army veteran Steve Watkins. The group is funded by physician Steven Watkins, who totally coincidently is the candidate's father.
● OH-12: While Democrat Danny O'Connor has long maintained he would not support Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House (and has even run TV ads to that effect), he told MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Tuesday that if he were the decisive vote, "I would support whoever the Democratic Party put forward." Republicans predictably pounced, with the Congressional Leadership Fund releasing a new ad on Thursday centered around O'Connor's quote. In response, a spokesman for O'Connor would only repeat that he "wouldn't vote for Pelosi or anyone in current leadership."
Later on Thursday, O’Connor’s campaign released a new internal poll from GBA Strategies showing the race tightening, with Republican Troy Balderson ahead 48-45 (though without rounding, the memo says that O'Connor is only back 2 points). Last week, GBA had Balderson up 48-43. Green Party candidate Joe Manchik has also seen his vote share drop, from 5 points to 2. GBA further notes that O'Connor's numbers have grown despite the millions in attack ads the GOP has dropped on his head (combined, the CLF and NRCC have spent $2.9 million so far).
But O’Connor’s getting a little more help, too, ahead of the Aug. 7 special election: The DCCC just reported spending another $73,000 on TV ads attacking Balderson, bringing their total outlay to $334,000 to date.
● TN-06: Both former Chancery Court Judge Bob Corlew and businessman John Rose are slugging it out on TV a week ahead of the GOP primary for this safely red Middle Tennessee seat.
Corlew is out with a spot portraying Rose as a child, with the narrator saying the former state agriculture commissioner pretends that he's not a political insider and that he didn't give "thousands of dollars to liberal Democrats who supported Planned Parenthood and Nancy Pelosi." As the kid playing Rose holds up a Bernie Sanders sign, the narrator adds that his biggest supporters are "Never Trumpers who called Trump a fraud."
Rose quickly fired back with an ad accusing Corlew of trying to give himself a 775 percent pay raise and declaring he once ran for office as "a dedicated Democrat." He also insists that on the bench, Corlew "took the side of liberal immigration groups and opposed English-only requirements." Neither ad mentions state Rep. Judd Matheny.
Both Corlew and Rose are mainly self-funding their campaigns. Corlew has loaned his bid $1.5 million while barely raising anything from donors, while Rose has taken out $2.25 million in loans so far while raising a total of $682,000 from donors. From July 1 to July 13, the time that the FEC defines as the pre-primary period, Rose outspent Corlew $410,000 to $342,000, and he had a hefty $1.16 million to $327,000 cash-on-hand lead for the final weeks of the contest. By contrast, Matheny deployed just $13,000 during the first 13 days of the month and had only $16,000 left for the homestretch.
● TN-08: Wealthy perennial candidate George Flinn, who served on the Shelby County Commission a decade ago, is up with another spot hitting Rep. David Kustoff ahead of their Aug. 2 GOP primary. Flinn features a woman identified as Cecilia who appeared in a previous ad for him holding up a Kustoff mailer that shows her and several other woman with the caption "FAKE NEWS." She tells the audience that she is indeed real, and Kustoff is "the one lying about his voting record and about us. I looked at his votes and I told the truth." She goes on to declare Kustoff is "so desperate that he attacks pregnant women."
Kustoff is also up with a new commercial where he ties himself to Trump without mentioning Flinn.