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.
There will be no Morning Digest or Live Digest on Monday, but we'll be back Tuesday for the start of what will be a very exciting two-month sprint to Election Day.
● FL-Gov: Odds are, when a politician uses the phrase "monkey it up" to describe his black opponent, it's not his first brush with racism. And indeed, for Rep. Ron DeSantis, the GOP's newly minted nominee for governor, it's not. The very same day DeSantis soiled himself by slurring Democrat Andrew Gillum on Fox News, American Ledger (a new site launched by the venerable Democratic opposition research shop American Bridge) reported that he was a moderator of a hate-filled Facebook group dedicated to racist attacks and conspiracy theories. A sampling of the bile:
Members of the group have attacked Black Lives Matter and other African-Americans as ghetto scum and ridiculed the teenage survivors of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14. Posters have referred to Douglas students David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez as a Hitler wannabe and a bald-headed brat, respectively, after they became outspoken activists for gun control in the wake of the shooting, during which a former student allegedly shot and killed 17 people.
One member believed the violent far-right rally of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 was a hoax, writing in a post liked by 1,600 users that the rally was orchestrated by the left to destroy America.
Following the report, DeSantis apparently quit the group, though it turns out that two other prominent Republicans—former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, who just lost the GOP primary for Senate, and Confederacy fanboy Corey Stewart, who won Virginia's Senate primary—are also administrators. Swell company.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Governors Association announced their first foray into the race with a $1 million donation to Forward Florida, a PAC supporting Gillum's campaign. That's not a particularly large sum for a state this big, especially since the RGA has booked $9.4 million in TV time for this race, but it may signal an intent to get more involved later on.
● AZ-Sen: Outside groups from both sides are preparing to go up with large ad buys. Politico reports that the NRSC has $2.1 million reserved for a buy that will begin in early September and last through mid-October, while the DSCC has $5 million invested for ads that will start in late September. The GOP group One Nation is also launching a $700,000 buy for the coming week for an ad, while the Democratic organization Majority Forward has a $434,000 buy starting Friday.
● FL-Sen: The super PAC New Republican really wants the audience to think that Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who turns 76 next month, is going senile. Their new spot labels the senator a "confused puppet" of national Democrats, and concludes he's their "old reliable puppet." We've seen lots of ageist attacks before, including against Nelson, but they're rarely this unsubtle.
● NJ-Sen: The Democratic group Leadership Alliance has added another $380,000 to a buy against Republican Bob Hugin, which takes their total investment in this race to $1 million so far.
● WV-Sen: Republican Patrick Morrisey's allied group, 35th PAC, is out with a survey from Harper Polling that gives Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin a 47-41 lead. The last poll we saw was a mid-July survey from the GOP firm Trafalgar Group that had Manchin ahead 50-40, and Morrisey himself didn't dispute that he was trailing in an interview with Politico a few weeks ago.
So why would Morrisey's allies release a poll that showed him losing a competitive race? That Politico story from early this month reported that some Republicans said that if things still didn't look better for Morrisey before Labor Day, after the anti-Manchin August ad barrage, they were concerned that super PACs and donors would turn their attention to other races. Well, it's almost Labor Day, and this poll very much indicates that Manchin is still standing despite the GOP's efforts to knock him down, and that Morrisey hasn't righted his own ship.
The poll seems to be 35th PAC’s way to try and frame the numbers their way in order to argue that Morrisey actually has met a pre-Labor Day deadline to turn things around and keep this race on the GOP's target list. The memo's summary notably leads with the line, "With Labor Day approaching, the race for US Senate in West Virginia remains highly competitive.” The memo also argues that Morrisey has room to grow because many Republicans and voters who would prefer a generic Republican to a generic Democrat haven't made up their minds, and that things will only tighten. We'll see if anyone is convinced by this, but at least for now, Republicans are continuing to spend against Manchin, with the NRSC launching a $554,000 buy against him this week.
● AK-Gov: Alaska Public Media reports that the RGA and Families for Alaska's Future, their affiliated group, have reserved more ad time than we thought. They say they've purchased a total of $1.7 million worth of TV spots so far.
● FL-Gov, FL-Sen: A new poll from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling, conducted immediately after Florida's Tuesday primary, shows Democrat Andrew Gillum starting off the general election with a 48-43 lead over Republican Ron DeSantis. Gillum, who went largely unattacked by his Democratic rivals, finds himself with a strongly positive 45-27 favorability rating, while DeSantis, who faced a nastier path to the GOP nomination, is underwater at 41-45. This is the first survey of the race from a reputable pollster, so we have nothing to compare it to.
However, the poll (which was paid for by a firm that consulted for one of Gillum's opponents, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine) also included data on the Senate race, finding Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson edging Republican Gov. Rick Scott 46-45. That's the first time in over two months that an outfit has found Nelson leading this contest, which has seen quite a lot of polling. It's possible, then, that PPP's survey is somewhat friendly to Democrats, though it also gave Trump a 46-49 job approval score, which is right in line with other recent polling of the Sunshine State.
● PA-Gov, PA-Sen: Franklin & Marshall takes another look at their home state, and they once again give the Democratic incumbents good news. They find Gov. Tom Wolf leading Republican Scott Wagner 52-35, a similar margin to the 48-29 lead they found in June. In the Senate race, they give Sen. Bob Casey a 47-34 lead over Republican Lou Barletta, which is only a slightly smaller margin of defeat for Team Red than the 44-27 Casey lead they had in June.
● WI-Gov: The GOP is continuing to attack Democrat Tony Evers for … refusing to break the law. This time, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (the state chamber of commerce) is out with a spot hitting Evers for raising his staff's salaries at his state superintendent's office rather than giving the money to teachers.
However, as the Associated Press' Scott Bauer points out, the money was earmarked by the GOP state legislature to go to education department workers, so Evers couldn't redirect it to teachers even if he wanted to. Other GOP ads have faulted Evers for not suspending the license of a teacher accused of looking at pornographic material at school, without acknowledging that state law at the time prevented the Democrat from doing so. Bauer writes that the WMC is spending $2.6 million on TV spots through Sept. 7.
● AR-02, CA-25, NY-24, PA-16: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is going up with TV ads supporting four additional Republican incumbents, and they say each is running for six figures.
● CA-50: Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar has launched his first TV ad of the race, and you get zero guesses as to the topic. A narrator lays into GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter as highlights from the congressman's recent indictment appear alongside his photo:
"We didn't know, but now we do. Every citizen has a responsibility to read this indictment. Forty-seven pages of corruption and greed. Duncan Hunter Jr. stealing campaign funds for lavish vacations and gifts. Defrauding wounded warriors. Insulting our military. Duncan Hunter Jr. It's more than unethical and illegal. He's an embarrassment."
Campaign ads don't usually assign homework to viewers, but this approach might be effective in underscoring the significance of the crimes Hunter's been charged with. The ad concludes by briefly featuring Campa-Najjar as the narrator says, "Now is the time to put country over party and give someone new a chance," exactly the sort of message a Democrat would want to emphasize in a district this red.
● FL-16: Democrat David Shapiro is out with a poll from Anzalone Liszt Grove giving GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan a small 48-44 lead. The only other poll we've seen in the last month was a late July St. Pete Polls survey for Florida Politics that had the incumbent up 44-35.
Buchanan's team whined in response to Shapiro's numbers that this was a "bogus push poll." However, not only did they misuse the term "push poll," they also didn't provide any actual evidence for their charges or their own numbers in response. And indeed, ALG's memo shows that the poll only provided information about both candidates after the initial head-to-head numbers: the Buchanan lead drops to 49-48 after "balanced, positive bio information" is read to respondents, and the memo even includes the text of both candidate profiles.
● KS-03: Democrat Sharice Davids is up with a new TV ad pushing back against a recent spate of negative GOP ads claiming she supports the "abolish ICE" movement. She accuses Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder's "special interest friends" of "twisting my words," but responds without repeating the attacks against her: "Well, they're wrong. I don't support abolishing ICE." She goes on to say that she favors "bipartisan immigration reform" with "strong borders and a pathway to citizenship, especially for those who serve in our military."
● NC-02: EMILY's List has endorsed Democrat Linda Coleman in her race against GOP Rep. George Holding.
● NY-22: Siena is out with the first poll we've seen here in a long time, and they give Democrat Anthony Brindisi a small 46-44 edge over GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney. The survey gives Tenney a negative 42-47 favorable rating while Brindisi, who has been hit with a number of attack ads over the last month, posts a strong 44-27 score. However, the sample also gives Donald Trump a 51-44 approval rating, though that's still a considerable drop from his 55-39 win here.
● MA-01: Attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud's challenge to longtime Rep. Richard Neal in next week's Democratic primary hasn't attracted quite as much attention as some other similar races, but the incumbent seems to be taking the contest seriously. During the pre-primary period (which the FEC defines as July 1 to Aug. 15), Neal spent $518,000 to win re-election in western Massachusetts' safely blue 1st Congressional District, compared to just $57,000 for Amatul-Wadud.
While Amatul-Wadud hasn't raised much cash, her campaign has drawn some local notice, especially in the wake of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's defeat of New York Rep. Joe Crowley in June. And indeed, there are some parallels here. Like Crowley, Neal is a powerful member of the Democratic leadership, and he would be in line to chair the Ways and Means Committee if Team Blue flips the House.
Amatul-Wadud, who would be one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, is, like many such challengers, trying to run to the congressman's left by emphasizing her own support for single-payer health care and debt-free education. Amatul-Wadud has also been trying to make the case that Neal hasn't been responsive to his district, an argument that helped Ocasio-Cortez beat Crowley. Neal hasn't spent much time attacking Amatul-Wadud, though he did criticize her for backing GOP Sen. Scott Brown over Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012, a decision Amatul-Wadud says she made because she was new to politics and now regrets.
Of course, as Amatul-Wadud herself readily acknowledges, there are limits to the comparisons. New York's 14th District is an urban seat that's home to a Latino plurality; Massachusetts' 1st is a rural district that's about three-quarters white.
New York also holds separate primaries for federal and state contests, which likely kept turnout low and helped Ocasio-Cortez because she needed to win only a relatively small pool of voters who were upset with the status quo and especially motivated to come out. However, Massachusetts, which, like every state that isn't New York, holds all primaries on the same day, will likely bring out more casual voters who are much more familiar with Neal than they are with his opponent.
Neal also has had two months since Crowley's surprise defeat to prepare for a similar challenge. That may help explain why he's spending money now to get his message out rather than taking any chances on Tuesday.
● VA-02: Republican Rep. Scott Taylor is running a master class in how not to handle a crisis. While Taylor initially claimed that he would fire any staffers involved in a scheme to submit allegedly fraudulent petitions on behalf of an independent candidate they hoped would split the vote with Democrat Elaine Luria, Roll Call reports that one of those aides, Lauren Creekmore, still appears to be working for his campaign. Taylor hasn't commented, but needless to say, he's making an awkward situation even worse by keeping Creekmore on, particularly since a special prosecutor is looking into the scandal.
And amazingly, it might all have been for naught anyway. Democrats filed a lawsuit earlier this month seeking to remove the independent, Shaun Brown, from the ballot due to the bogus signatures filed by Taylor's team. Now they're saying all of Brown's petitions are invalid because they didn't list her home address, as required by law. Rather, Democrats claim, one set of petitions included a non-existent address (like those fake Law & Order addresses that would stick you in the East River), while a second set featured a townhouse where Brown never lived.
It's worth noting, by the way, that Brown, a perennial candidate who regrettably was the Democratic nominee here in 2016, is in the midst of serious legal trouble herself. Last year, Brown was indicted by federal prosecutors on charges that she stole from a government-funded charity she ran that provided meals to the needy. Earlier this summer, her trial ended in a mistrial due to a lone holdout on the jury, and prosecutors said they would retry the case. This is the person Taylor's staffers went out of their way to help—a perfect match of scuzz.
● VA-07: Following its disturbing release of former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger's highly confidential application for a federal security clearance, the United States Postal Service issued a statement blaming the disclosure on "human error." This explanation, however, still does not account for the unusual speed with which the Postal Service processed the request made under the Freedom of Information Act by America Rising, a Republican super PAC, for Spanberger's file: Spanberger requested a copy of her own application last December but still hasn't received it, while America Rising's request was fulfilled in just three weeks.
The Postal Service says it's conducting an internal review, but added that "a small number of additional requests for information from personnel files were improperly processed" as well, so we could yet see further improper disclosures affecting other candidates. Quaintly, the Postal Service also said it would ask for the files to be returned, but America Rising already shared them with another PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, which in turn shopped them to reporters in an attempt to attack Spanberger, who is running against vulnerable GOP Rep. Dave Brat.
And in any event, never expect the CLF to do the right thing. On Wednesday, before the Postal Service acknowledged that Spanberger's application was improperly released, an attorney for CLF insisted in response to a cease-and-desist letter, "As is its right, CLF therefore will continue to disseminate this information through all available means ..." It's unlikely the PAC has since changed its mind: last cycle, CLF eagerly made use of materials stolen from Democrats by Russian hackers in its campaign ads. They won't have any problem doing the same thing with a supposed Postal Service screw-up.
● DCCC: We have the size-of-the-buy for a few recent DCCC spots. They're spending $170,000 in Arizona's 2nd District against Lea Marquez Peterson; another $77,000 against Rep. Kevin Yoder in Kansas' 3rd; $93,000 against Rep. Claudia Tenney in New York's 22nd; and $328,000 against Dino Rossi in Washington's 8th (here and here).