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.
● FL-Gov, FL-06: On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis "spoke four times at conferences organized by a conservative activist who has said that African-Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country's 'only serious race war' is against whites." Indeed, video recording shows DeSantis praising the organization behind the conferences in 2015, and other featured speakers include infamous white nationalists like Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Milo Yiannopoulos.
In just the two weeks since DeSantis won the GOP primary to face Democrat Andrew Gillum, he had already sparked outcry over using plainly audible racist dog-whistles in saying his African-American opponent was "articulate," yet would "monkey [things] up" if elected. Furthermore, a Democratic opposition research group revealed that DeSantis was a moderator of a hate-filled Facebook group trafficking in conspiracy theories and racist attacks.
In a surprising move, DeSantis announced he was resigning immediately on Monday. However, the reason was, unsurprisingly, to focus on his campaign this fall, not because of the growing signs of his problems with racism in his campaign against a Democrat who could become Florida's first black governor. Consequently, DeSantis' House seat will remain vacant until the next Congress is sworn in, since federal law mandates ballots be mailed out to military and overseas voters no later than 45 days before Election Day, a deadline that's less than two weeks away.
● NH-Gov, NH-01: Tuesday kicks off our final primary week of the cycle in New Hampshire. The Democratic primary for governor pits former state Sen. Molly Kelly against former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, who lost the 2016 primary 51-25. No one has released any polls here since the spring, but Kelly has a huge financial advantage and the support of the state party establishment. The winner will take on GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, who has polled well in the few surveys we've seen.
The primaries to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the state's swingy 1st District look like they'll be the main event. On the Democratic side, the two main candidates are Iraq War Marine veteran and former Department of Veterans Affairs official Maura Sullivan and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas.
Sullivan outspent Pappas $604,000 to $249,000 during the pre-primary period (which the FEC defines as July 1 to Aug. 22), and her allies at VoteVets and With Honor Fund have spent a total of $806,000 on her behalf. However, Pappas has the backing of much of the state party establishment, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, and a number of influential unions. Sullivan also only moved to New Hampshire last year, and she considered a House bid in her native Illinois at the start of this cycle.
A few other Democrats are also in the mix. State Rep. Mark MacKenzie spent $120,000 during the pre-primary period, and the former state AFL-CIO leader has them and several other labor groups in his corner. Shea-Porter is backing her former campaign manager and chief of staff Naomi Andrews, but Andrews has spent very little to get her name out. Levi Sanders, a son of Bernie Sanders, has also attracted some headlines, but the Vermont senator and most of his New Hampshire allies aren't supporting him.
The GOP side is a battle between state Sen. Andy Sanborn and former state liquor commission official Eddie Edwards. Sanborn outspent Edwards $194,000 to $130,000 during the pre-primary period, and he had much more cash left for the home stretch. However, Sanborn has drawn some bad headlines over reports he'd made inappropriate comments to former interns and staffers. Edwards has attacked Sanborn on the campaign trail for "serial predatory behavior," while the state senator has argued the establishment is out to get him.
Polls close in most of the state at 7 PM ET, though some towns remain open for another hour. We won't be liveblogging this one, but we'll be posting an open thread at Daily Kos Elections for anyone who wants to discuss the results as they come in.
● AZ-Sen: Republican Martha McSally continues to try to make fetch happen by attempting to portray Democrat Kyrsten Sinema as an anti-military radical. Her latest offering features a Navy veteran who claims Sinema "protested our troops" and favors "massive defense cuts that would've put troops in danger."
But this claim is simply dishonest: Sinema and many Americans at the time were protesting the injustices of the Bush administration's destabilizing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—not those who put their lives on the line to defend their country in uniform—and Sinema and McSally both voted for this year's budget that increased defense spending. Furthermore, given how massively bloated America's defense budget is with pork-barrel spending compared to all other major powers, stopping future waste like $1 trillion fighter jets that don't even work properly would hardly endanger those actually fighting to keep the country safe.
● MS-Sen-B: Donald Trump has canceled his planned Friday campaign rally for appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith due to Hurricane Florence. The event has not yet been rescheduled.
● TX-Sen: Despite years of a frosty relationship between second-ranking Senate Republican John Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz over the latter frequently attacking his party's establishment, Politico reports that Texas' senior senator is finally activating his state and national donor network for his junior colleague now that Cruz faces a very real threat from Democrat Beto O'Rourke this fall. The hard-line anti-tax Club for Growth recently announced it was coming to Cruz's aid with a seven-figure ad buy, but Politico’s latest story relays that even the more establishment-oriented groups like the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and the Mitch McConnell-affiliated Senate Leadership Fund are considering getting into the game, too.
Texas is a very expensive state thanks to its size, and Cruz has already been heavily outraised by O'Rourke this cycle. That national Republican leaders are alarmed enough to start calling the cavalry in by bringing in Donald Trump for an October rally and encouraging a flood of super PAC spending is a remarkably revealing sign of just how competitive this race is for a state where Democrats haven't won any statewide race whatsoever in 24 years.
● WV-Sen: Back when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin first won in the 2010 special, he aired an ad where he shot a copy of House Democrats' cap-and-trade bill with a rifle, and Manchin is reprising the tactic with a very different target in mind. In his latest ad, Manchin takes a shotgun to a lawsuit from GOP state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, blasting it because it would take away health care from many with pre-existing conditions. Despite backing Trump in a landslide, ancestrally Democratic West Virginia has the highest proportion of people with pre-existing conditions, and it's notable that Manchin thinks this Obamacare protection is a winning campaign issue.
● AZ-Gov: The GOP firm Data Orbital's first general election poll gives GOP Gov. Doug Ducey a 49-41 lead over Democrat David Garcia. A recent PPP survey for Garcia gave the governor a much-smaller 44-43 edge, but we have little other data to work with.
● MI-Gov, MI-Sen: GOP pollster Strategic National is out with a survey for WJML that gives Democrat Gretchen Whitmer a 49-39 lead over Republican Bill Schuette in the race for governor, while Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow leads Republican John James 53-35. Both Strategic National and the radio station are owned by Republican consultant John Yob, and their mid-August survey gave Whitmer and Stabenow very similar 45-36 and 50-35 leads, respectively. Polls taken before the early August primary also found the two Democrats ahead.
Normally, we'd wonder why a GOP firm would release such terrible numbers for their party (twice!), but Yob gave us a pretty big clue days ago. Yob, who worked for defeated GOP primary candidates Bill Calley and Sandy Pensler, argued on Friday that Schuette and James were "in deep trouble," but his client for state attorney general, Tom Leonard, could be a "firewall" for Team Red down the ballot. However, this poll did not include any results for the attorney general race.
P.S. Amusingly, Strategic National's website still sports a banner declaring the firm "hasn't lost a Primary or convention anywhere in the United States in nearly a decade. We win, it's as simple as that." Last month, Calley and Pensler lost their primaries 51-25 and 55-45, respectively, after Donald Trump endorsed Schuette and James.
● NV-Gov: Over the weekend, Democrat Steve Sisolak picked up an endorsement from independent Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve. Sisolak is looking to make inroads in northern Nevada, where he isn't well-known, and Schieve could be a useful surrogate for him.
Meanwhile, outgoing GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval is continuing to make life difficult for Republican nominee Adam Laxalt, whom he has refused to endorse. Sisolak recently went up with a TV spot hitting Laxalt for opposing Sandoval's 2015 law to fund schools and raise teacher pay while praising the governor for doing " the right thing." Sandoval seems to have absolutely no problem with this, and his office told the Nevada Independent on Monday that "For Governor Sandoval, it's not about Republican or Democrat, it's about education."
● NY-Gov, NY-AG: Siena is out with the first poll of Thursday's statewide Democratic primaries we've seen from any firm since their last poll in July. They give Gov. Andrew Cuomo a 63-22 lead over actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, which is similar to the 60-29 Cuomo edge they had several weeks ago.
However, the primary for state attorney general looks a lot closer. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney leads New York City Public Advocate Letitia James 25-24, with law school professor Zephyr Teachout at 18; former Cuomo administration official Leecia Eve takes just 3 percent. In July, Siena had James at 25, with Maloney and Teachout at 16 and 13 percent, respectively. On Monday, Teachout also picked up an endorsement from Bernie Sanders.
● FL-06: The first general election poll we've seen for this open-seat race comes from Democrat Nancy Soderberg, and her Greenberg Quinlan Rosner internal gives Republican Michael Waltz a bare 47-46 lead. This Volusia County-based seat moved hard to the right from 52-47 Romney to 57-40 Trump, but the sample gives Trump an underwater 46-51 favorable rating.
● GA-06: Democrat Lucy McBath is out with a poll from Thirty-Ninth Street Strategies that gives Republican Rep. Karen Handel a small 49-47 edge. Handel's team responded by labeling this "an internal PR effort," but she has not yet released her own numbers in response. This is the first survey of the general election season we've seen for this suburban Atlanta seat, which hosted the most expensive House race in history during last year's special election. So far, no outside groups appear to have booked TV time.
● KY-06, MN-03, MN-08: Siena has completed an additional three House polls for the New York Times:
- KY-06: Amy McGrath (D): 46, Andy Barr (R-inc): 47
- MN-03: Dean Phillips (D): 51, Erik Paulsen (R-inc): 42
- MN-08: Joe Radinovich (D): 44, Pete Stauber (R) 43
We'll start with the most eye-popping result. Paulsen has always won re-election by double digits in Minnesota's 3rd District, and he even defeated a touted Democratic foe 57-43 as his Twin Cities-area seat was moving from 50-49 Obama to 51-41 Clinton. However, this poll finds Paulsen not only losing, but losing badly; in fact, this is the only one of the six surveys that Siena finished by Monday afternoon that showed anyone with more than a one-point lead.
However, there's a good reason Paulsen may be in such awful shape. The poll gives Donald Trump a wretched 33-62 approval rating, which may be just too much for even a well-funded and battle-tested incumbent like Paulsen to overcome. Indeed, this district is full of well-educated suburbanites, which is exactly where the GOP is most at risk this year.
Of course, as the Times cautions at the top of each write-up, this is just one poll. Unfortunately, we don't have any more recent data to work with. The only other survey we've seen all year was a February PPP poll for the Democratic group Patriot Majority that had Phillips ahead 46-43. The well-funded Congressional Leadership Fund has also spent $680,000 here so far, so they're certainly not acting like Paulsen is dead on arrival.
We'll turn north to Minnesota's 8th District, which is one of the few Democratic-held seats the GOP has a strong chance of turning red. This survey is the first poll we've seen for the contest for this district in the rural northeastern Iron Range in a seat that swung from 52-46 Obama to 54-39 Trump. Siena gives Trump a 47-48 approval rating, which is better than what they've found for him in any of their other five completed polls, but still a big drop from 2016.
Finally, we have Kentucky's 6th, a Lexington-area seat that went from 56-43 Romney to a similar 55-39 Trump. The only other poll we've seen here in months was a CLF survey from last week that had Barr ahead 49-45. This poll has Trump underwater at 45-51, which indicates he may be at least somewhat of a liability for Barr here.
● MA-03: Lori Trahan got some good news over the weekend when certified election results increased her lead over Dan Koh from 52 votes to 122 in Tuesday's Democratic primary. Koh is seeking a recount, which needs to be finished by Monday.
● MI-06: PPP is out with a survey for the progressive group Michigan Families for Economic Prosperity that gives longtime GOP Rep. Fred Upton a 45-41 lead over Democrat Matt Longjohn. That's not too different from the 47-41 Upton lead in Longjohn's late August internal. We haven't seen any other polls for this Kalamazoo-area seat, which moved from 50-49 Romney to 51-43 Trump.
● UT-04: On Monday, CNN reported that Republican Rep. Mia Love admitted to the FEC that her campaign illegally raised $1.15 million in campaign funds designated for this year's primary even though she won renomination this year at a party convention without any primary (Utah lets candidates choose whether to contest the primary or the convention). And this doesn't just appear to be some minor oversight on Love's part: She even raised $372,000 of that haul designated as primary donations after she had won the April convention unopposed.
That wrongful designation is important because federal law allows donors to give the $2,700 maximum twice—once for the primary and once for the general election—but candidates can't spend money designated for the primary once the primary is over. Since Love had no primary, all of that $372,000 raised after the convention may have to be refunded; while primary funds from donors who hadn't exceeded the general election limit can normally be redesignated as general election funds, there's a 60-day deadline to do so, which has already passed.
Furthermore, if the FEC determines that Love knowingly flouted donation caps because she knew she wouldn't have a challenger for the GOP nomination, she could land in much hotter water. Love told the FEC that she wouldn’t refund any of the money raised prior to the convention, citing GOP Sen. Mike Lee doing something similar in his 2016 re-election campaign. But unlike Love, who never prepared for any primary challenge this cycle, Lee had long been expecting to face an intra-party foe in 2016, only for none to materialize. However, Love may ultimately be saved by how her fellow congressional Republicans have tried to cripple the FEC via partisan gridlock.
Nevertheless, Love's tenure in Congress isn't just threatened by campaign finance violations. Utah-based pollster Dan Jones & Associates has Love ahead just 49-46 over Democrat Ben McAdams in this fall's contest. That result is little different than their June poll, which had Love up 47-43, and it's quite similar to McAdams' own recent poll from the Mellman Group, which had him trailing just 46-44. Consequently, a potential campaign finance scandal that leaves her hurting for cash is just the latest headache she'll have to deal with in her tough re-election battle.
● House: We have the size-of-the-buys for some recent House TV ads. First up is the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund:
- CA-25: $341,000 (here and here)
- CA-39: $567,000
- CA-45: $499,000 (here and here)
- CA-48: $157,000
- CO-06: $470,000 (here and here)
- IL-06: $336,000
- KS-02: $321,000
- KS-03: $266,000
- KY-06: $179,000
- ME-02: $255,000
- MN-03: $620,000
- MN-08: $75,000
- NE-02: $159,000
- NJ-03: $123,000
- NJ-07: $220,000
- NY-19: $156,000
- OH-01: $283,000
- PA-01: $410,000
- VA-07: $165,000
- WA-08: $393,000
We also have some smaller DCCC buys:
- CA-10: $34,000
- KS-02: $40,000
- MN-01: $75,000
- NY-22: $125,000
- VA-02: $47,000
● International Digest: Brazil's October presidential election was thrown into chaos after leading far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed and seriously wounded just a week after a former leftist president who was the polling front-runner was disqualified from running again over corruption. Meanwhile, Australia's center-right party ousted its own prime minister in favor of a more right-wing leader ahead of next year's looming elections. Read about these stories and more in the September edition of Daily Kos Elections' International Digest.