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.
● CT-Gov: We have our first two polls of the general election for governor of Connecticut, and while they each give Democrat Ned Lamont a lead against Republican Bob Stefanowski, they disagree by quite a bit on how far Team Blue is ahead.
Quinnipiac, which is out with their first poll of their home state in two years, finds Lamont up 46-33 among registered voters, with independent Oz Griebel at 4; in a two-way matchup, Lamont's edge expands to 53-37. However, Sacred Heart University's survey for Hearst Connecticut Media has Lamont up by a small 41-37 margin among likely voters, while an unnamed "someone else" takes 6.
It's not clear yet who exactly will be on the general election ballot. The state has not yet announced if Griebel has turned in enough signatures to qualify, and he's also competing with Stefanowski for the Independent Party's ballot line, which will be awarded by party leaders. (Connecticut allows candidates to appear on the ballot as the nominee of multiple parties.)
One place where the polls both do agree is that outgoing Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy is incredibly unpopular. Quinnipiac gives him a 25-67 disapproval rating, which is worse than Donald Trump's 30-67 score in this blue state. Sacred Heart also has Malloy's approval rating even further in the dumps at 16-70, while Trump is at 31-58. However, it's noteworthy that Lamont still leads even as voters dislike their current Democratic governor, and a sign that the national political climate will play a bigger role in this race than state-level politics.
● AZ-Sen: GOP Rep. Martha McSally evidently feels confident enough about her chances in next week's primary to start airing a TV ad aimed at the general election, but the content of her advertisement suggests she's a lot less confident about that race.
McSally narrates the ad herself, and starts by saying, "Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11." She goes on to tout her military service, saying she was deployed to the Middle East and "led air strikes against the Taliban." There, though, McSally turns utterly base. "While we were in harm’s way in uniform," she says, "Kyrsten Sinema was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service." (Sinema, the likely Democratic nominee, is shown in photo wearing a pink top and skirt, standing before a microphone, though nothing she actually said that day is offered to viewers.)
This rhetoric is disgustingly anti-American and plays to people's worst instincts: When someone protests a war, it does not mean they are protesting the troops sent to fight that war, nor does it mean they're disrespecting anyone's service. To suggest otherwise means no one could ever oppose a war ever without being slurred as "denigrating" servicemembers—though that is indeed exactly how many conservatives feel.
McSally knows all this, of course. But what's most telling is that she already feels the need to resort to the politics of fear in order to preserve her hopes of winning in November.
● TX-Sen, TX-Gov: Marist is out with a new poll for NBC that gives GOP Sen. Ted Cruz a small 49-45 lead against Democrat Beto O'Rourke, while GOP Gov. Greg Abbott crushes Democrat Lupe Valdez 56-37. A late July poll from Quinnipiac had Cruz ahead by a similar 49-43 margin, though Abbott had a smaller 51-38 lead in his own race. O'Rourke's allies at End Citizens United also released a PPP poll from early August that had Cruz up 46-42.
● AZ-Gov: The RGA began its ad campaign against Arizona State University Professor David Garcia, the frontrunner in next week's Democratic primary, a little more than a month ago, and The Arizona Republic reports that they've already put $9.2 million toward this race, some of which has already been spent and the rest of which is devoted to fall TV ad reservations (Update: This post originally said the RGA had already spent $9 million against Garcia.)
A recent poll from the GOP firm OH Predictive Insights for ABC15 gave Garcia a 40-25 lead over Farley, while Fryer took just 7. Garcia has a smaller lead over state Sen. Steve Farley in the money race, though. Garcia outraised his main rival $182,000 to $168,000 from July 1 to Aug. 11, though Farley outspent him $500,000 to $280,000 during this time. Activist Kelly Fryer raised just $14,000 during the period and spent only $36,000. Garcia held a $147,000 to $93,000 cash-on-hand lead over Farley, while Fryer had $19,000 in the bank.
Ducey himself won't need to worry about money. The incumbent, who faces a quixotic primary challenge from former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, hauled in $552,000 and had $3.2 million in the bank.
● FL-Gov: Billionaire developer Jeff Greene has spent about $25 million on TV ads ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary, but he's strangely decided to go completely dark for the final week of the campaign.
The campaign insists it's a strategic decision because "the airwaves are flooded with political ads and no one is paying active attention," but that's a very unconvincing argument since so many voters only really start to tune in during the final weeks of the primary. What's more likely is that, with polls now consistently showing Greene well behind, he's decided it's not worth spending more of his own money only to lose.
● ME-Gov: The DGA-backed group A Better Maine is out with what we believe is the first TV commercial from an outside group for the general election. Their spot praises Democrat Janet Mills on education and doesn't mention any of the other candidates.
● NH-Gov: Campaign finance reports are out covering the last two months. Former state Sen. Molly Kelly, the establishment favorite in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary, outraised GOP Gov. Chris Sununu $177,000 to $154,000 during this time, but the incumbent enjoys a $527,000 to $353,000 cash-on-hand edge. Former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, who is also competing for the Democratic nod, took in $53,000 during this time and had only $42,000 in the bank.
Marchand recently went up with an unusual ad that showed him speaking to the audience in French (with English subtitles). Marchand spends two-thirds of the spot highlighting how his parents immigrated from Quebec and that's it's offensive for leaders like Sununu not to stand up to Donald Trump's hatred. The commercial then shows a clip of Marchand giving a speech in English, before it goes back to him talking in French again. The campaign says the ad will only run for "a few thousand" dollars on cable.
● PA-Gov: Wealthy Republican Scott Wagner has quite an explanation for why he refuses to release his tax returns. After declaring that he runs a non-union company so"[i]f I make money or don't make money that's my business," he continued:
"If I disclose those tax returns, union representatives get a hold of my tax returns, go around to my employees' homes at night and say, 'Hey Mrs. Jones, how much does your husband make?' She goes, 'Well he makes this.' 'Well this guy makes a lot more.'"
We've seen a whole lot of frothing anti-union rhetoric from Republicans, but the specter of labor representatives going to employees' homes at night and telling workers' spouses how much the boss makes is a new one.
● WI-Gov: The state Republican Party is continuing to hammer home its argument that Democrat Tony Evers hasn't done enough to protect children in the classroom. Their new TV spot argues that Evers didn't revoke licenses from three teachers who'd "preyed on our kids." The narrator declares that one viewed and shared pornographic images at school, another used SnapChat to solicit sex from a student, while a third was caught "with his pants down" in a classroom. She concludes that, as superintendent of state public schools, Evers had the power to revoke their licenses, but he refused.
As we've written before, Evers hardly has the authority to just revoke teachers' licenses at will as the ad makes it sound like he could have. When the first incident occurred in 2010, state law didn't allow a teacher's license to be suspended for sharing porn at school. In response to this case, Evers worked with GOP Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-led legislature to toughen the law to allow suspensions for using school equipment to view pornography.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also explains that the situation with the teacher who allegedly used SnapChat to solicit a student was far more complicated than the black-and-white case the GOP makes it out to be. The teacher deleted her account and messages couldn't be recovered, and the student she was communicating with refused to testify. Ultimately, local school districts referred the matter to the police, who dismissed the case for lack of evidence.
Evers' allies at the DGA-backed A Stronger Wisconsin are also out with a new spot as part of their previously-announced $1.8 million ad buy. They argue that the state's roads and schools have suffered and healthcare costs have skyrocketed during Walker's eight years as governor.
● AZ-02: Former state Rep. Matt Heinz has come under fire days ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary for comparing his main rival, former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, to a meth addict. "All she can think about is, 'What do I have to do to put that damnable little pin onto my lapel,' " Heinz recently said, apparently referring to the official lapel pins that members of Congress wear to get past security at the Capitol. "That's all she can see, and I understand it because I've had to treat people with meth addiction."
Noting the fact that Heinz is a physician, Kirkpatrick fired back: "A good doctor would have compassion about the disease instead of using the disease as if it were a weakness to describe his political opponent," she said. "To me, it's just like when Trump made fun of the disabled." Kirkpatrick's top surrogate, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (who used to represent this district), also demanded Heinz apologize.
What's more, Heinz has been on his own long quest for that "damnable little pin." He's now waging his fourth congressional campaign in the last six years. Early in 2012, he ran in the special election to replace Giffords, who resigned after getting shot, but he then quit when former Giffords aide Ron Barber got into the race. However, he persisted in running in the regular election that fall and got predictably pasted by Barber in the primary. Then, two years after Republican Martha McSally narrowly unseated Barber in 2014, Heinz sought to challenge her, losing 57-43. Perhaps a different condition is at work here: projection.
● CA-50: GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter has decided to step down from his committee assignments two days after getting indicted, which will at least save the House GOP the headache of needing to boot him after Labor Day.
● FL-05: The University of North Florida takes a look at next week's Democratic primary for this safely blue seat, and they give Rep. Al Lawson a 48-29 lead over former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. A recent survey from St. Pete Polls gave Lawson a very similar 50-28 lead.
● FL-09: The Latino Victory Fund has launched a $150,000 media buy in support of Rep. Darren Soto ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary.
● MA-03: UMass Lowell is out with the first poll in months of the very crowded Sept. 4 Democratic primary for this Merrimack Valley seat. They give Dan Koh, a former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, the lead with 19 percent, while former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford and state Sen. Barbara L'Italien are in second with 13 percent each. Business consultant Lori Trahan is further back with 8, while no one else clears 6 percent.
● MA-07: The National Association of Realtors has a reputation for spending heavily for their friends on both sides of the aisle, and their political arm has thrown down $300,000 so far on digital ads and mailers, as well as polling, to support Rep. Mike Capuano in his Sept. 4 Democratic primary.
● NY-22: Spectrum News reports the NRCC will begin a $300,000 media buy next week to support GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney.
● House, Senate: The pro-Trump groups America First Action and America First Policies have announced that they'll spend a total of $12.5 million on ads across 10 House races and two Senate contests. CBS says that $2.5 million of that will go the Missouri and North Dakota Senate races, but we only know six of the 10 House targets. They'll be spending in MI-11, MN-08, NY-22, and TX-32, which have all attracted plenty of outside spending already, as well as NC-13 and WV-03, where major national groups had yet to book any ad time.
P.S. Politico reports that one of America First Action's top contributors is Randy Perkins, who was the 2016 Democratic nominee for Florida's 18th Congressional District. Perkins, who had the support of the DCCC, poured over $10 million of his own money into his campaign only to lose to Republican Brian Mast 54-43. Perkins, who already had a history of donating to Republicans before he ran for Congress, contributed $500,000 to the pro-Trump group this year.
● House: We have the size-of-the-buy from several recent ads from the DCCC. They've thrown $280,000 into Kansas' 2nd District, $117,000 into Kansas' 3rd, $93,000 in New York's 22nd, and $267,000 in Washington's 8th.