The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● NC-09, NC-03: On Tuesday night, Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop narrowly defeated Democrat Dan McCready in the hotly contested do-over race for North Carolina's 9th Congressional District by a 51-49 margin, though his performance was much weaker than is customary for the GOP in this historically conservative and heavily gerrymandered district.
Republicans will, of course, be thrilled to chalk up a win, though of course this re-do only became necessary after operatives working for last year's GOP nominee were exposed for trying to steal the race by manipulating (and possibly even discarding) absentee ballots from unwary voters, many of whom were black and Native American.
And because this is a hold rather than a flip, Republicans haven't actually made up any ground against the Democratic majority in the House: With state Rep. Greg Murphy's 62-37 victory over Democrat Allen Thomas in the simultaneous special election for the safely red 3rd Congressional District, the GOP's caucus will now number 199 members to the Democrats' 235, along with one independent—same as the 235-199 spread when the current Congress was sworn in in January.
Most importantly, Bishop's 2-point margin of victory was 9 points closer than Donald Trump's 54-43 win here three years ago. That points to an electoral atmosphere that remains charged up in favor of Democrats, just as we saw in 2018. So far this year, in three dozen special elections tracked by Daily Kos Elections, Democrats are outperforming Hillary Clinton's 2016 margins by 5.5 points, while generic congressional ballot polls show Democrats ahead by an average of more than 6 points. If Republicans are only able to pull off squeakers in districts that typically favor them by double digits, they will be hard-pressed to win back the House next year.
P.S. This is the first time the 116th Congress will be at full strength, though it won't last long: Wisconsin Republican Sean Duffy has announced plans to resign effective Sept. 23.
● GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: Investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff, who narrowly lost the famous 2017 special election for Georgia's 6th Congressional District, announced on Monday evening that he would vie for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Sen. David Perdue next year.
As he did when he ran for the House, Ossoff kicked off his campaign with a high-profile endorsement from Rep. John Lewis, the legendary civil rights leader whose congressional office he once interned for. Ossoff had reportedly been considering a bid for the special election for Georgia's other Senate seat, but in opting to challenge Perdue, he'll now face a primary field that includes 2018 Lt. Gov nominee Sarah Riggs Amico, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson (who won the backing of former Gov. Roy Barnes on Tuesday).
That might seem like a surprising choice, seeing as no other Democrats have yet declared for the second Senate contest. The prize for this race is bigger, though: six years in the Senate rather than just the final two years of Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson's term. (Isakson recently announced he'd resign at the end of this year due to health issues.) And thanks to the white-hot exposure he received during the battle for Georgia's 6th—the contest set an all-time record for House campaigns with $55 million spent—Ossoff likely starts off as the best-known Democrat running.
A race against Perdue, of course, also presents the same difficulties that any effort to unseat an incumbent would. However, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp will be able to appoint a replacement for Isakson, and that person, who could run in next year's election, might not be encumbered by the same sort of D.C. baggage as Perdue. That, in fact, seems to be part of Ossoff's calculus, as he lambasted Perdue as "a caricature of Washington corruption."
Ossoff, who will be 33 on Election Day, would be the youngest member of the Senate by several years and the first member of the Millennial generation to join the body. To succeed, he'll need to rekindle the intense grassroots enthusiasm that powered his House bid and helped him raise an astonishing $30 million. We'll get a read on whether Ossoff has maintained his ability make it rain in about a month, when fundraising reports for the third quarter of the year are due at the FEC.
There's also the intriguing possibility that Ossoff could find himself on a "ticket" of sorts with none other than Rep. Lucy McBath, the Democrat who last year unseated Karen Handel—the Republican who beat Ossoff in the 6th District two years ago. McBath recently refused to rule out a run in the Senate special election, and with Democrats intent on putting both seats—and perhaps Georgia's electoral votes—in play, progressive energy in the Peach State should be at peak levels in 2020.
● TX-Sen: State Sen. Pat Fallon told the Dallas Morning News on Monday that he's considering a bid against Sen. John Cornyn in next year's GOP primary because the arch-conservative Cornyn is (you guessed it) not arch-conservative enough.
It'll be difficult for Fallon to make life difficult for Cornyn, who turned back a passel of intra-party challengers in 2014 (including occasional congressman and current incarceree Steve Stockman) without shedding a bead of sweat. But the appetite among Republican primary voters for ever-purer strains of wingnuttery knows no limits.
Fallon, in fact, successfully put that to the test last year, when, after serving three terms in the state House, he blasted longtime state Sen. Craig Estes out of the water in the GOP primary by an almost comical 62-23 margin. During that race, Fallon self-funded his campaign to the tune of $1.8 million and pledged to spend as much as it would take. It's not clear whether he has the personal wealth to make a similar impact in what would be a vastly more expensive statewide affair, but shy he is not.
It's also worth noting that Texas is home to just 31 state senators—fewer than the number of members it sends to the U.S. House. As a result, Fallon would start out with a significantly larger geographic base of support than your typical legislator. Of course, Texas is so huge that even this advantage might prove minimal, but Democrats would be happy to see Fallon at least force Cornyn to spend down some of his war-chest sooner than he'd like.
● LA-Gov: Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham's second TV ad is a cheaply produced spot that features the candidate making a strained analogy between organized sports and the state of Louisiana. "How would you react if LSU or the Saints didn't win a single game this year and finished dead last? What if they finished dead last three years in a row?" Here he cites the same article that fellow Republican Eddie Rispone did in a recent spot, recapping a U.S. News ranking of the states that placed Louisiana 50th.
Here's where Abraham gets weird, though. "If we wouldn't accept that from our sports teams, why would we accept that from our state government?" What exactly does Abraham think football fans get to do if their team sucks? Fire the coach? Force out the ownership? No, all you do is complain about it, probably on the internet. But if there's one fanbase that's well-acquainted with losing, why, it's that of the Saints! For years, in the 1970s and 80s, the Saints were so awful that fans dubbed them "the Aints" (they finished 1-15 in 1980) and popularized wearing paper bags over their heads at games to mask their shame.
Your typical Republican voter is most definitely old enough to remember this era (just like Abraham), and certainly knows what happened next: Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Drew Brees joined the team and led the Saints to seven playoff appearances, including their first-ever Super Bowl victory in 2009. Of course, voters can fire Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, and that's exactly the message Abraham concludes with. But if Louisiana is in fact embodied by today's Saints (2018 record: 13-3), then perhaps viewers will conclude it's best not to change coaches.
● MS-Gov: Republican Tate Reeves is up with his first TV ad of the November general election, touting his efforts to cut Mississippi's debt and lower taxes.
● IA-01: State Rep. Ashley Hinson, the lone notable Republican running to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer, recently held a fundraiser in D.C. featuring a bunch of prominent GOP members of Congress, including Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. All the way back in January, Hinson was name-checked by NRCC chair Tom Emmer, so it seems like her party's potentates are now coalescing around her.
● IL-15: Republican state Sen. Jason Plummer, who had reportedly been considering a bid for Illinois' open 15th Congressional District, now confirms he's "taking a hard look" at running. Plummer previously lost a bid for the neighboring 12th District in 2012. Because he is not up for re-election to the legislature until 2022, Plummer could run for Congress again without having to give up his current seat.
● PA-06: Republican businessman John Emmons just announced a bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan in Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District, but there's no indication that he's capable of mounting a serious challenge. The same appears to be true of the other Republican in the race, retired pilot Tom Siedenbuehl, seeing as his campaign website currently redirects to a CMS login page.
Last year, Republicans forfeited this seat in the Philadelphia suburbs after GOP Rep. Ryan Costello quit the race in a huff after the filing deadline because court-ordered redistricting had made the district considerably bluer. Earlier this year, the DCCC left Houlahan off its "Frontline" list of vulnerable incumbents, and there's no sign that's about to change.
● WA-03: On Tuesday, EMILY's List endorsed educator Carolyn Long, who is seeking a rematch against Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler. Last year, Herrera Beutler prevailed by a 53-47 margin, the closest re-election of her career. EMILY also backed Long in that race, but not until much later in the cycle.
● WI-05: Two notable Republicans, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (who served under Scott Walker) and Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, have both said no to bids for Wisconsin's open 5th Congressional District. A whole bunch of other Republicans are still considering the race, though no one has yet kicked off a campaign.
● WI-07: On Tuesday, Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany joined the expected special election for Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District, making him the first notable candidate in either party to do so. Two other Republicans, meanwhile, have said no in recent days: state Sen. Jerry Petrowski and Luke Hilgemann, a former head of the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity.