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.
● KS-Gov: If this unusual new spot from Gov. Jeff Colyer is any indication, the incumbent thinks he's the underdog against Secretary of State Kris Kobach in next week's GOP primary.
Colyer's commercial argues that the race has come down to a two-person contest, but the narrator reminds the audience that other hopefuls are still on the ballot. As pictures of 2006 nominee Jim Barnett, state Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, and little-known businessman Patrick Kucera appear, the narrator argues that "a vote for any of these candidates is essentially a vote for Kris Kobach, increasing his chances of victory." The voice-over goes on to say that Colyer is the only one who can beat Kobach "for our schools" and "for our economy," imploring voters, "Don't go backwards."
It's pretty odd to see someone running an ad encouraging other candidates' supporters to vote for him instead. The spot also doesn’t even make much of a case for why Colyer would be so much better than Kobach. Instead, it just mostly hopes that Barnett, Selzer, and Kucera voters already agree that he would be.
The motivation it is clear, though. Just the other day, Kobach released an internal poll showing him leading Colyer 34-25, with Barnett and Selzer taking 11 and 8 percent, respectively, while Kucera at just 1. Colyer has yet to respond with a survey of his own, but you don’t run an ad like this from a place of strength.
It’s rare for a sitting governor to lose renomination, but this is not your typical primary. Colyer was only elevated from lieutenant governor to the top job at the end of January after Sam Brownback finally escaped the state thanks to a minor Trump ambassadorship, so he doesn’t enjoy the years worth of name-recognition and support that most governors have before they run for re-election. By contrast, Kobach has a following in conservative circles as the country’s most notorious voter suppression crusader, and it’s very possible that more primary voters have a strong opinion of him than they do of Colyer.
Colyer’s also taking some fire from outside the confines of the GOP primary, as the Grow Kansas Action Fund, which is backing independent Greg Orman, is airing an ad targeting the governor. Their spot argues that Colyer would continue Brownback's disastrous economic policies, reminding viewers that Colyer loaned Brownback's 2014 campaign money and "fully supported" his agenda. The group is also sending out mailers ahead of the Democratic primary hitting state Sen. Laura Kelly, so it seems that they've decided that Orman's best chance to win is he doesn’t face either Colyer or Kelly in November.
Finally, campaign finance reports are also available ahead of next week's primaries. While Kobach took in $1.6 million from Jan. 1 to July 26, only $150,000 of that came from donors. The vast majority of Kobach's haul was actually a loan from his running mate, wealthy businessman Wink Hartman. Colyer raised $834,000 during this time without any self-funding, but Hartman's contribution allowed Kobach to outspend the governor $1.9 million to $1.2 million since the start of the year. The other Republicans each spent less than $400,000 during this period.
On the Democratic side, Kelly decisively outspent former state Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty $492,000 to $240,000 during the first seven months of the year, while former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer spent just $82,000. Orman is the only notable candidate who has the luxury of not needing to worry about a primary, though he spent a hefty $860,000 since January anyway. Orman took in $880,000 during that time, but $650,000 of that was from his own wallet. Orman had $460,000 in the bank near the end of July, considerably more than what Colyer, Kobach, or any of the Democrats had available.
● FL-Sen: Mason-Dixon's new poll of Florida's Senate race has Republican Gov. Rick Scott edging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by a 47-44 margin, but what's interesting is how little the race has changed since the firm's last survey. Mason-Dixon hasn't been in the field since early February, when it found Nelson ahead 45-44.
That was before Scott entered the race, and more importantly, before he began his eight-figure barrage of negative ads hammering Nelson. Despite that assault, Nelson still has a positive 36-31 favorability rating, though Scott is more popular, with a 44-33 score. Of course, in a race as close as this one has been, even a small shift could have a profound impact, but if Nelson can continue to survive this storm, that's a positive sign for his hopes in November.
Scott, however, has unlimited resources, and naturally, he's not going to let up. His latest attack ad, though, is pretty thin. Citing reports that most of Nelson's campaign staffers are independent contractors, the narrator charges that Nelson "doesn't pay payroll taxes for his employees" and is therefore "stealing money from Medicare and Social Security." That's total nonsense: Many campaigns rely on independent contractors, especially in their early phases, and those contractors are responsible for paying their own payroll taxes. Medicare and Social Security do not get shortchanged.
● MO-Sen: It's no surprise that the Club for Growth is attacking Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in a new TV ad, but what's odd is that, despite the extraordinarily incendiary nature of the charges, the spot has garnered virtually no coverage in the traditional media, with only the conservative Washington Examiner touching the story. The full transcript is astounding:
Each week in Missouri, over 500 requests for shelter and assistance for domestic violence victims go unmet. As victims cry for help, is Claire McCaskill listening? Even after McCaskill's political benefactor and now-husband was accused of abusing his then-wife, McCaskill looked the other way, voting to finance the agencies providing him with fat government contracts. Millions for them, another slap in the face for victims.
Where to even begin? How about here: McCaskill's campaign issued a statement from Suzy Shepard, the ex-wife of McCaskill's husband, Joseph Shepard, in which she said, "I support Claire and hope she is re-elected. This attack is terribly unfair and the worst kind of disgusting dirty politics." She's spot on. To try to blame McCaskill for acts allegedly committed by her husband is sexist filth. Why more news outlets haven't called out this garbage is a mystery to us.
● NV-Sen, NV-Gov: Polling on behalf of the Reno Gazette Journal, Suffolk University finds both of Nevada's marquee statewide races this year as close as can be. In the contest for Senate, Republican Sen. Dean Heller edges Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen 41-40, with Heller's favorables at 39-42 and Rosen's at 34-27. (Donald Trump is slightly underwater at 46-49.) This is only the second time in seven public polls this year where Heller's been ahead, though most of the polls showing Rosen up have had the margin in the low single digits.
The topline numbers are almost identical in the race for the state's open governorship, where Republican Adam Laxalt has a 42-41 lead on Democrat Steve Sisolak. Laxalt's favorability rating is stronger, at 38-27 versus 36-35 for Sisolak. There's been less polling here than on the Senate side, but again, just about every survey has shown a tight race.
● AL-Gov: The GOP firm Cygnal is out with a poll giving GOP Gov. Kay Ivey a 56-42 lead over Democrat Walt Maddox. Cygnal works for Ivey's campaign, though they say that this survey "was conducted without input from any candidate or candidate's campaign and was paid for exclusively by Cygnal." The only other poll we've seen of this contest was an early July survey from another Republican firm, Atlantic Media & Research, that showed Ivey ahead 53-28.
● AZ-Gov: Rep. Ruben Gallego endorsed Arizona State University professor David Garcia on Tuesday for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.
● HI-Gov: Merriman River Group takes another look at the Aug. 11 Democratic primary for Civil Beat, and they give Gov. David Ige a 43-34 lead over Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Back in May, Merriman gave Hanabusa a 37-31 edge. Mason-Dixon also recently found a large swing towards Ige, with him going from a huge 47-27 deficit in March to a 44-40 lead in mid-July.
As we wrote a few weeks ago, it's very possible that voters are giving Ige credit for his handling of the ongoing Kilauea volcano eruption, which could also be helping him rebut Hanabusa's claims that he's a weak leader. The governor is also now out with a commercial staring Harry Kim, the mayor of Hawaii County, praising Ige for responding quickly and effectively to the crisis.
Hanabusa did pick up an endorsement this week from former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who left office in 2002. Cayetano, who lost a bid for mayor of Honolulu in 2012, supported Ige during his successful primary bid against incumbent Neil Abercrombie.
● MN-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in ahead of the Aug. 14 primaries, and they give us our first look at Attorney General Lori Swanson's financial situation. Swanson raised $606,000 from when she entered the Democratic primary in early June to July 23, but she had just $135,000 left for the final weeks of the campaign. By contrast, Rep. Tim Walz took in $1.28 million during the first seven months of 2018 and had $500,000 on hand, while state Rep. Erin Murphy took in $585,000 during the year and had $234,000 left to spend.
On the GOP side, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty outraised 2014 nominee Jeff Johnson $2.1 million to $300,000 during 2018, and he held an imposing $1 million to $193,000 cash-on-hand edge. Democrats aren't waiting until the primary is over to hit Pawlenty, and the super PAC Alliance for a Better Minnesota has launched another spot at the former governor.
● NM-Gov: It's been almost two months since Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham decisively beat businessman Jeff Apodaca 66-22, but Apodaca isn't done making trouble for her. While he has remained officially neutral in the general election, Apodaca recently appeared at an event with Republican Steve Pearce, and he also praised Pearce’s plans for jobs and the economy.
● NY-Gov: In Siena's newest poll of likely Democratic primary voters, Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds a wide 60-29 lead over actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, little different from the 61-26 advantage Cuomo had in the school's last survey in early June.
● RI-Gov: If Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo doesn't win re-election, it won't be because she didn't spend enough money. Raimondo spent $1 million on a broadcast TV buy that began June 4 and concludes Aug. 12, and WPRI's Ned Nesi writes that this figure doesn't even include any cable TV ads she ran.
● SD-Gov: Democrat Billie Sutton very much looks like the underdog as he tries to become the first Democrat to win the governorship since 1974, but he's out with a poll from Anzalone Liszt Grove arguing it's not an impossible dream. The survey gives Republican Kristi Noem a 46-42 edge, an improvement for Sutton from Noem's 13-point lead in an unreleased October poll. This is the first survey we've seen at all of the general election.
● CA-25, CO-06, NY-19: The Internet Freedom Business Alliance, an organization devoted to protecting net neutrality, recently commissioned a set of polls on the issue from IMGE Insights, a Republican firm, in four competitive GOP-held congressional districts. In three of those, they included head-to-head numbers for the House:
- CA-25: Katie Hill (D): 47, Steve Knight (R-inc): 47
- CO-06: Jason Crow (D): 45, Mike Coffman (R-inc): 45
- NY-19: Antonio Delgado (D): 44, John Faso (R-inc): 49
All three states above conducted their primaries in June, and we've had one prior poll apiece in each race since then. A mid-June survey from the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group put Knight ahead 45-40 in California's 25th, while another GSG poll recently found Crow up 47-45 in Colorado's 6th. Delgado, meanwhile, led 49-42 in a DCCC internal poll of New York's 19th from a month ago that Republicans never answered.
IMGE's fourth poll was in Florida's 18th, where Democrats, who are choosing between former State Department official Lauren Baer and Navy veteran Pam Keith, won't pick a nominee until Aug. 28. There, Republican Rep. Brian Mast holds a 50-40 lead on a generic Democratic opponent.
● CT-05: Jahana Hayes, a former national teacher of the year, has fittingly earned the endorsement of the Connecticut Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, as well as the backing of the National Education Association.
Hayes also just released her first TV ad ahead of her Aug. 14 primary against attorney Mary Glassman. The spot features footage of Barack Obama honoring her at the White House in 2016, alongside Hayes explaining how a teacher's job is to "effect change," saying it's the same duty Congress is charged with. Hayes finishes by saying, "If Congress starts to look like us, no one can stop us."
● IL-06: Politico reports that the Congressional Leadership Fund has reserved $2 million in TV time to aid GOP Rep. Peter Roskam.
● KS-02: What do you do if your son is running in a GOP primary next week, but Democrats are saying they spoke to him about running as a Democrat? If you're wealthy physician Steven Watkins, you get the super PAC you're financing to run a commercial that just dismisses the whole story as a certain something that rhymes with Cake Muse.
Kansans Can Do Anything's new spot defends Army veteran Steve Watkins (Steven Watkins' son) arguing that, with Nancy Pelosi trying to flip this seat, "liberal Democrats are smearing Republican Steve Watkins with fake news attacks." The narrator declares that Team Blue is doing this "because Watkins is a winner, a combat veteran tough enough to take on Pelosi and defeat her liberal agenda."
As we wrote recently, several Democrats said they'd spoken to Steve Watkins just last year about the possibility of running for this seat for Team Blue. 2nd District Democratic Party vice chair Ty Dragoo went on to say that Watkins even espoused several socially progressive positions. Watkins acknowledged he had met with Dragoo, but contends he was set up to meet him by someone who didn't inform him Dragoo was a Democrat and not just a mere transportation lobbyist (Dragoo works for a transportation union).
Despite these bad headlines, Watkins may well have a good chance in the crowded Aug. 7 primary. Watkins, who has self-funded most of his campaign, spent $277,000 from July 1 to July 18, while state Sen. Caryn Tyson was a distant second with just $59,000 deployed during this time. Kansans Can Do Anything has also spent a total of $472,000 for Watkins, while the other candidates haven't received much outside support. Whomever emerges from the GOP primary will take on former state House Democratic Leader Paul Davis, who had a hefty $895,000 war chest in mid-July.
● KS-03: EMILY's List has put another $230,000 behind a TV buy in support of attorney Sharice Davids ahead of next week's crowded Democratic primary.
● MI-09: EPIC-MRA takes a look at next week's Democratic primary, and they give businessman Andy Levin a 49-26 lead over former state Rep. Ellen Lipton. That's a smaller edge for Levin, the son of retiring Rep. Sandy Levin, than the 51-12 edge he posted in his recent internal poll, but it's still an enviable lead this close to Election Day. Note that this EPIC-MRA poll did not sample cell phones.
While Lipton is the underdog, she has run a well-funded campaign. From July 1 to July 18, which the FEC defines as the pre-primary period, Lipton outspent Levin $395,000 to $328,000, and she had a $275,000 to $140,000 cash-on-hand edge for the final days of the contest.
● MI-13: EPIC-MRA takes a look at next week's crowded primary for this safely blue seat, and they find a tight race. Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones leads former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib 24-21, while Westland Mayor Bill Wild is just behind with 17. State Sens. Coleman Young II and Ian Conyers are further back with 9 and 6, respectively. While this poll didn't sample cell phones, it's not too different from a recent Target-Insyght survey for MIRS that gave Jones a 21-20 edge over Wild, with Tlaib at 19.
● OH-12: Outgoing Gov. John Kasich, who only belatedly endorsed Republican Troy Balderson a few days ago, stars in the Congressional Leadership Fund's newest ad ahead of the Aug. 7 special election, now just a week away. In the spot, Kasich, who held the prior version of this seat for almost two decades in the '80s and '90s, praises Balderson for helping to cut taxes and "turn Ohio around." It's still an awkward fit, though, as Balderson has openly criticized Kasich for expanding Medicaid and has sought to portray himself as a true Trump believer, which Kasich most certainly is not.
Meanwhile, the progressive group End Citizens United, which has endorsed Democrat Danny O'Connor, has released a new poll from PPP showing Balderson ahead 48-44. Putting out this data is a somewhat perplexing move, though, seeing as O'Connor's own polling from just the other day had him down only 2 points.
● OK-01: SoonerPoll takes a look at the Aug. 28 GOP runoff for this safely red seat on behalf of the CBS affiliate Newson6, and they give former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris a 38-26 lead over wealthy businessman Kevin Hern. Harris led Hern 27-23 in the first round of the primary in late June.
● TX-06: Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez is out with a survey from PPP showing her trailing Republican Ron Wright 48-39 in a Arlington-area seat that moved from 58-41 Romney to 54-42 Trump. This contest hasn't attracted much national attention, but Sanchez is hoping to change that by arguing she has a path to victory in this ancestrally red area. At the end of June, Sanchez held a $68,000 to $25,000 cash-on-hand lead.