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.
● VA-07: Disgusting: Even though the United States Postal Service admitted to disclosing Democrat Abigail Spanberger's application for federal security clearance in error and asked for it back, the Congressional Leadership Fund has gone ahead and released an attack ad that nevertheless makes use of those ill-gotten documents. It's unadulterated fearmongering bullshit:
What is Abigail Spanberger hiding? Spanberger doesn't want us to know that she taught at an Islamic school nicknamed "Terror High"—a terrorist breeding ground. One graduate plotted to assassinate President Bush. Another was arrested for trying to bring a butcher knife on an airplane. So dangerous, even Chuck Schumer called for the school to be shut down. But Abigail Spanberger cashed her paychecks like nothing was wrong.
Spanberger taught English as a substitute teacher at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia in 2002 and 2003, while she waited on the CIA to process her job application. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, that was many years before the incidents cited in CLF's ad, and, as Spanberger herself points out, the CIA soon thereafter hired her as an officer and granted her top-secret security clearance—not something the agency would have done had it had concerns about her background.
This attack would be garbage even if it didn't rely on improperly obtained materials, but CLF has no problem playing as dirty as it gets with both means and message. We can only conclude they're rolling around in this deep gutter because they're genuinely worried that Spanberger will defeat Republican Rep. Dave Brat in November.
● AZ-Sen: Republican Martha McSally and her allies have already begun running ads attacking Democrat Kyrsten Sinema for protesting the Bush administration's wars, and Sinema is pushing back with a positive spot. The narrator describes Sinema as a "proud member of a military family" who has fought for pay raises for service members, missile systems, and money for the local Luke Air Force Base. The commercial also declares that when the Phoenix VA scandal broke, Sinema demanded "resignations and accountability." The spot does not mention the GOP attack ads.
● IN-Sen: Marist continues their tour of the Senate battlegrounds for NBC, and their new survey gives Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly a 44-41 edge over Republican Mike Braun, with Libertarian Lucy Brenton at 8.
Donnelly's lead expands to 49-43 in a two-way race with Braun, but Brenton may be able to hold onto much of the support she has now: Brenton took 5.5 percent during the 2016 Senate race, and a different Libertarian nominee did about as well in the 2012 Senate contest. The only other poll we've seen in the last two months was an early August survey from the GOP firm The Trafalgar Group that had Donnelly leading by a hard-to-believe 51-39.
The Marist numbers give Democrats some reasons to be optimistic that Donnelly can hold onto a lead over the next two months. The senator posts a strong 48-31 favorable number, though Braun is above water at 39-32. Donald Trump posts a 48-46 job approval rating, which, while still positive, is a far cry from his 56-37 margin of victory in the Hoosier State in 2016.
● OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Innovation Ohio, which the Associated Press recently identified as a left-leaning think tank, is out with a poll from the Democratic firm Change Research that gives Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown only a small 46-42 lead over Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, while Republican Mike DeWine posts a 45-43 edge over Democrat Richard Cordray in the race for governor.
It's been about two months since we've seen any polling for either contest, though June polls consistently found Brown ahead by double digits. While there's been plenty of outside spending in the gubernatorial contest, however, both parties have mostly diverted their resources to other Senate races, so it doesn't feel like either side thinks the Brown/ Renacci race is as close as this poll says it is.
● VA-Sen: The GOP firm Cygnal is out with a poll for the GOP firm Poolhouse, which says it has no client in this race, and they give Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine a 50-46 lead over Confederate fan boy Corey Stewart. However, two August polls found Kaine ahead by double digits, and no major outside groups from either side have shown any interest in competing here. Cygnal's sample gives Donald Trump a 46-51 favorable rating, which seems very high given his numbers in national polls and Team Red's trashing in the Old Dominion's 2017 races.
● CA-Gov, CA-Sen: The GOP firm Probolsky Research, which says they have no client in either the gubernatorial or the Senate race, is out with their first general election poll, and they give Democrat Gavin Newsom a surprisingly small 44-39 edge over Republican John Cox in the race for governor. The last poll we saw was a mid-July survey from the Public Policy Institute of California that had Newsom up 55-31, and Republicans have shown no optimism about flipping the governorship in this dark blue state in this very tough year.
Cox himself isn't exactly running a smooth campaign, either. The Republican has made a number of embarrassing or offensive statements, including saying that a Holocaust survivor told him that DMV wait times were worse than the concentration camps, and he admitted later that "in paraphrasing his comments, I misspoke." Over the past year, Cox has also called for sending homeless people who have drug addictions to be "incarcerated in hospitals," and said that legal immigrants "who can pick the fruits and vegetables" should be welcomed.
In the all-Democratic Senate contest, they give incumbent Dianne Feinstein a 37-29 lead over state Sen. Kevin de Leon. PPIC's July poll had Feinstein up 46-24, and we've seen no other polls since then.
● CO-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in covering the period of July 28 to Aug. 29. Wealthy Democrat Jared Polis is continuing to almost entirely self-fund his campaign, and he gave himself another $5.5 million over the last month. Republican Walker Stapleton raised $346,000 during this time.
Polis outspent Stapleton $4.79 million to $87,000 during the last month; the Democrat announced last month that he'd reserved $3 million in TV time for October, so this may include that down payment. At the end of August, Polis held a $2 million to $555,000 cash-on-hand lead. The RGA has been airing ads to aid Stapleton, but the $276,000 they spent was still a fraction of the money Polis deployed. The DGA's affiliate Good Jobs Colorado spent $989,000 during this time.
● IL-Gov: The RGA-backed group State Solutions is running their first TV spot in this race since March of 2017, when they aired ads praising GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner. It's surprising to see any outside groups getting involved here since polls have consistently found Rauner in dire shape against Democrat J.B. Pritzker. There is no word on the size of the buy.
● MI-Gov: GOP Gov. Rick Snyder declined to endorse state Attorney General Bill Schuette right after he won the Republican primary a month ago, and he hasn't come around since then. On Wednesday, Snyder said he wouldn't endorse any of the candidates running to succeed him, declaring he was "staying out of politics. I'm governing." But Snyder certainly wasn't too busy governing to get involved in the GOP primary, where he vigorously backed Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.
As we noted last month, there's some very bad blood between Snyder and Schuette, who has filed criminal charges against several members of the governor's administration over the Flint water poisoning. The Detroit News' Nolan Finley wrote back then that Snyder was convinced that Schuette brought the charges in order to distance himself from the administration, a claim Calley publicly shouted during the primary.
● NM-Gov: Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas is out with a Global Strategy Group poll for his re-election campaign (he leads 51-30) that also includes a question on the gubernatorial contest. The survey gives Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham a 52-42 lead over Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, which is very similar to the 52-44 edge Greenberg Quinlan Rosner recently found in a poll for Lujan Grisham's campaign.
Meanwhile, local political writer Joe Monahan reports that the political arm of Conservation Voters New Mexico is spending $500,000 on a TV buy against Pearce. Their spot argues that Pearce has voted to open more public lands to oil drilling and "even voted to make it easier to privatize our public lands and shrink our national monuments."
Pearce himself is continuing to depict himself as a compassionate moderate in his newest spot, despite being a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. The congressman tells the audience it’s time to "stop blaming teachers for problems they didn't create," and calls for "[f]ix[ing] our broken test system and put[ting] more money into classrooms."
● RI-Gov: Spending reports are in for all the candidates ahead of Wednesday's (yes, Wednesday’s) primaries, and to the surprise of no one, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has lapped everyone a few times. Raimondo deployed $690,000 from Aug. 15 to Sept. 4, and she had $2.4 million left in the bank. By contrast, former Secretary of State Matt Brown spent only $24,000 during this time, and had $84,000 left on Tuesday. Raimondo very much seems to be treating Brown as a threat, however, since she went up with her first negative spot against him last week. Former state Rep. Spencer Dickinson spent $16,000 during this time and had $15,000 left.
On the GOP side, Cranston Mayor and 2014 nominee Allan Fung outspent state House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan $160,000 to $48,000 and held a $227,000 to $40,000 cash-on-hand lead. Businessman Giovanni Feroce spent less than $600 and had $3,200 in the bank.
● CA-39: The Congressional Leadership Fund is now running its third ad attacking Democrat Gil Cisneros over allegations by a woman named Melissa Fazli, who claims Cisneros sexually harassed her. As we've noted before, Fazli first made her accusations in May, but even though Cisneros' primary opponents called attention to them, traditional media outlets all chose not to cover the story. In light of the greater willingness the press has demonstrated to pursue such stories in the #MeToo era, the lack of coverage is telling. However, even if Cisneros is being unfairly smeared, it's difficult to fight back against ads like this. Cisneros' best route is probably to denounce the attacks and hammer his Republican opponent, Young Kim, over her own vulnerabilities.
● CA-45: The DCCC is out with a mid-August poll from Tulchin Research that gives Democrat Katie Porter a small 49-46 lead over Republican Rep. Mimi Walters. A late-July Porter internal gave Walters a tiny 45-44 edge, while we have yet to see any polls from Team Red on this Orange County seat.
● KY-06: GOP Rep. Andy Barr and the Congressional Leadership Fund have run ad after ad arguing that Democrat Amy McGrath is too liberal for this 55-39 Trump seat, and McGrath is out with a good response spot.
The commercial shows home videos of McGrath playing with her young children as the candidate narrates that someday she'll tell them about "flying combat missions and about working at the Pentagon," as well as "this time. Before attack ads tried to make me into someone I'm not." McGrath declares that Barr says she's too far left "because I want every family to have health care. And I want more background safety checks and gun-safety measures to prevent school shootings," and concludes, "Defending our country is about protecting those we love."
McGrath's allies at With Honor Fund, a super PAC that helps veterans from both parties, are also coming to her aid. The group recently launched a $483,000 buy here, with another $37,000 going to digital ads; we do not have a copy of their spot yet.
● MN-02: Republican Rep. Jason Lewis is out with a poll from WPA Intelligence giving him a small 46-45 lead in his rematch with Democrat Angie Craig; Lewis beat Craig 47-45 in 2016's open-seat race. This is the only poll we've seen here so far.
● MN-03: Both GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen and the Congressional Leadership Fund are out with new commercials insisting that Democrat Dean Phillips is a hypocrite for calling health care a moral right after failing to provide it for his workers at his coffee shop. Philips says he didn't have any full-time employees when he launched that business in 2016, and chose to pay part-time workers a $15 hourly minimum wage so they could afford to choose their own healthcare plan, and he offered a healthcare plan once the coffee shop brought on full-time workers.
● MO-02: Democrat Cort VanOstran is out with a poll from Expedition Strategies that gives him a 43-41 lead over GOP Rep. Ann Wagner. A recent poll from the GOP firm Remington Research Group for the local political tip-sheet Missouri Scout found a very different result, with Wagner up 51-40. So far, major outside groups don't appear to have committed any money to this 53-42 Trump seat in the St. Louis suburbs.
● ND-AL: Republican Kelly Armstrong has released a poll from the ominously-named firm Axis Research that gives him a 53-32 lead over Democrat Mac Schneider, not too different from the 48-26 lead they gave him in May. Back in June, an independent poll from Mason-Dixon gave Armstrong a smaller but still formidable 46-35 edge. While both parties are spending heavily in the Senate race, there's been little activity in the House contest.
● NH-01: With Honor Fund has launched a $318,000 buy for former Department of Veterans Affairs official Maura Sullivan ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary.
● NJ-07: The Congressional Leadership Fund is now running a second TV ad declaring that Democrat Tom Malinowski "sought legal protections for terrorists," and "even criticized America for waging war on Al-Qaeda." CLF leveled a similar attack against Malinowski last month, and the Washington Post pointed out then that he was working as Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, where he lobbied Congress and the State Department for "access to courts for enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay and other locations." That's of course very different from what CLF makes it sound like Malinowski did.
The CLF's new commercial also cited a 2007 Malinowski editorial in the Post to make it sound like he wanted America to go all peacenik on al-Qaida. What Malinowski actually wrote back then was that the Bush administration had given Osama bin Laden what he wanted by agreeing with him that the country was at "war" with the terrorists, because Bush’s rhetoric made it easier for bin Laden to pass himself off as "the leader of a mighty army going head to head with a superpower on a global battlefield, equivalent in America's eyes to the greatest adversaries it had fought in the past."
Malinowski also argued in his op-ed that by holding captured terrorists for years without a trial, America had sacrificed its "moral authority and the opportunity to discredit these killers as the cowardly criminals that they are." Malinowski’s entire essay was thus devoted to talking about ways the U.S. could more effectively combat al-Qaida, but CLF knows that—they just don’t care.
● WA-08: The Congressional Leadership Fund's newest spot argues that Democrat Kim Schrier's medical practice turned away poor children on Medicaid, with the narrator declaring, "Poor children were refused care while Kim Schrier got rich." The local Seattle NBC affiliate K5 News fact-checked the ad and wrote that, while it makes it sound like Schrier was the one making the decisions about who to treat and who to turn away, that's not at all the case.
K5 News explains that Schrier works for Issaquah Virginia Mason, one of the state's largest healthcare providers. The clinic where she practices does indeed not accept all Medicaid plans, but Washington's Health Care Authority says that individual doctors at large providers don't get to decide what insurance plans they can take and which ones they can't. Schrier's campaign also very much agrees that it's unacceptable that the current healthcare system "puts too much power in the hands of big insurance companies to decide which doctors people can see."
• House: We have the size-of-the-buys for some recent DCCC ads (here and here)
- AZ-01: $277,000
- AZ-02: $111,000
- CA-10: $65,000
- CA-45: $340,000
- FL-26: $475,000
- IA-03: $180,000
- IL-06: $96,000
- KS-02: $280,000
- KS-03: $158,000
- MN-01: $437,000
- VA-02: $145,000
- WA-08: $297,000