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-Sen: Last week, at least three TV stations refused to air a NRSC commercial that falsely accused Democrat Cal Cunningham of personally benefiting from the federal coronavirus relief effort known as the Paycheck Protection Program.
WasteZero, where Cunningham served as an executive until March, received at least $1 million in government support, but the candidate was no longer on its payroll by then. WasteZero's CEO also said that Cunningham "was not involved in the application for PPP funds and did not benefit from them."
This is one of the highest-profile ad takedowns so far this cycle, so this is a good opportunity to explain why third-party ads are vulnerable to getting taken down like this.
Under federal law, broadcasters cannot censor or refuse to air ads from candidates as long as they're paid for. (In 2018, for example, a TV station in New Mexico had to run a spot from a Democrat who started his ad by saying, "Fuck the NRA.") Consequently, because they have no choice but to run such ads, stations have successfully argued that they should not be liable as publishers if they're ever sued for defamation for anything said in a candidate ad.
However, they're under no similar obligation to run ads from outside groups, which means that in those cases, stations are potentially liable for defamatory claims. Knowing this, campaigns try to hunt down inaccuracies (real or perceived) in third-party ads and demand that broadcasters stop airing them, with the stated or unstated threat that if they fail to comply, they could find themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit.
Whether or not such a suit might ever succeed, TV and radio stations have to think hard every time as to whether they want to incur legal costs should a campaign ever follow through. In this case, a trio of North Carolina stations decided that the answer was no.
But not all broadcasters immediately roll over every time they get a lawyer letter. No one likes being bullied, but more to the point, these companies want the ad revenue. That's why they typically have their own legal departments review grievances like these to assess their merit. If they wind up disagreeing with the complainants, then they'll tell them to get lost and will keep running the ad in question.
It's also worth noting that sometimes, when a station nukes an ad, the group airing it will edit out or rephrase the offending material and then try to re-run it. That's exactly what happened here: The NRSC took down its spot, but, rather than stop attacking Cunningham for something he wasn't involved with, it began airing an edited version declaring that people "tied to Cal Cunningham" were benefiting from the Paycheck Protection Program.
● Primary Night: Kobachalypse Now: We have a big evening in store on Tuesday with primaries taking place in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington, with more contests to watch than on any other primary night before the November general election. We've put together our preview of the night's key races in each of the five states.
The most closely watched election will be the GOP's expensive and nasty Senate primary in Kansas, where both parties agree that former state Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial election to Democrat Laura Kelly, could harm the GOP's chances in the fall if he wins on Tuesday. Also in the Sunflower State, Republican Rep. Steve Watkins is fighting to win renomination after a recent indictment on voter fraud charges.
That's not all that's on tap for Tuesday, though. In Missouri, nurse and activist Cori Bush is getting some serious outside support for her challenge to Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay in the St. Louis area, while voters statewide will also decide whether to expand Medicaid to 230,000 residents. We also have a whole bundle of other big races in Arizona, Michigan, and Washington.
Our live coverage will begin at 8 PM ET Tuesday night at Daily Kos Elections when the polls close in Missouri and most of Kansas and Michigan. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates. And you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates of the presidential and down-ballot primaries in all 50 states—many of which have been changed—as well as our separate calendar tracking key contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year.
● Connecticut: Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has signed a bill passed by Connecticut's Democratic-run legislature to allow all voters to request an absentee ballot for the November general election due to the coronavirus pandemic.
● Montana: An organization representing local election officials has asked Gov. Steve Bullock to allow counties to conduct the November general election by mail, just as they did Montana's June primary, and have requested he make a decision by Aug. 10. A Bullock spokesperson said the governor is currently consulting with election administrators and health professionals, and specifically took note of the deadline that county officials asked him to observe.
● Nevada: Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed a bill passed by Nevada's Democratic-run legislature that will send mail ballots to all active registered voters for the November general election.
The bill also ensures that officials will provide far more in-person voting locations than they did during the state's June primary, when such options were extremely limited. Clark County (home of Las Vegas) will be required to operate at least 35 early voting sites and 100 Election Day polling places, while Washoe County (where Reno is located) will have a minimum of 15 sites for early voting and 25 for Election Day. All other counties will have to open at least one site apiece before and on Election Day.
In addition, the measure allows non-family members to collect and deliver mail ballots on behalf of others (currently, only family members are permitted to do so). It further expands the number of drop-boxes at which ballots can be deposited. It also lets officials begin processing mail ballots 15 days before the election, rather than the current four days.
● Rhode Island: A federal district court has approved a consent decree under which Democratic state officials have agreed to waive a requirement that absentee voters have their mail ballots signed by two witnesses or a notary. Republicans have filed an appeal.
● GA-Sen-A, NC-Sen: YouGov has released a pair of Senate polls on behalf of CBS:
- GA-Sen-A: David Perdue (R-inc): 45, Jon Ossoff (D): 43 (46-45 Biden)
- NC-Sen: Cal Cunningham (D): 48, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 39 (48-44 Biden)
This is YouGov's first survey of either contest.
● MA-Sen: The Boston Globe reports that a newly-formed group called New Leadership PAC has reserved $1.6 million for an ad campaign in support of Rep. Joe Kennedy that will start Aug. 10 and last until the Sept. 1 Democratic primary. The paper writes that most of the super PAC's funding so far has come from unions, and that several members of the Kennedy family, including the candidate's brother, are raising money for it.
The PAC's opening ad declares, "If ever a time demanded new ideas, new vision, new leadership, it's right now," and argues that Kennedy is that new leader. The spot does not mention Sen. Ed Markey, whom Kennedy is running to unseat.
● TN-Sen: Former Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty is airing yet another attack ad ahead of Thursday's Republican primary in which he mispronounces his opponent's name.
As Politico recently reported, Hagerty has repeatedly called physician Manny Sethi, who is the son of Indian immigrants, "Set-ee" rather than "Seth-ee," and he's kept at it even after being corrected multiple times. Hagerty, who has been running against Sethi for over a year, said in response, "I'm just not sure what his preferred pronunciation is, but there's nothing underlying it." When asked if he thought that Hagerty was doing this deliberately to make his name sound as foreign as possible, Sethi replied, "I think that [voters] can make that judgment for themselves."
In the spot, Hagerty declares, "I'm a fourth-generation Tennessean. I'm a product of the American dream. No one loves this nation more than I do." Hagerty continues, "I'm extremely troubled by weak-kneed Republicans like Mitt Romney and Manny Set-ee," and he makes sure to mention that he's Donald Trump's endorsed candidate.
Hagerty's dig at the Utah senator comes after Sethi started running ads tying the former ambassador, who held prominent roles in both of Romney's presidential campaigns, to the most hated man in the Republican Party. Sethi's spots have even said that Romney has endorsed Hagerty, though Politico notes that Romney hasn't taken sides here.
Hagerty is also running a minute-long positive commercial touting his business and diplomatic experience. The Tennessee Journal notes that, amazingly, Hagerty doesn't mention Trump once in his 60 seconds.
● NH-Gov: The New Hampshire branch of the National Education Association has thrown its support behind Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky ahead of the Sept. 8 Democratic primary.
● VA-Gov: Republican Del. Kirk Cox, who served as speaker of the Virginia House until Democrats took the majority following last year's elections, said Monday that he was considering a 2021 bid for governor. Cox said that he would not announce a campaign until after this November's contests.
While Cox's party lost control of the House, Cox himself won under challenging conditions. A court-ordered map was put into place that year to replace the previous GOP gerrymander, and the seat that shifted furthest to the left as a result happened to be Cox's own constituency in the Richmond suburbs: While his old House District 66 backed Donald Trump 59-37, the new version supported Hillary Clinton 50-46.
Democrats ended up flipping six seats that fall, but Cox won re-election 52-47, a victory that makes him just one of two Republicans left in a Clinton House seat (the other is Robert Bloxom Jr.). Cox decided after the election, however, not to take a leadership post in the new GOP minority.
● FL-03: Businessman Ryan Chamberlin's using his second TV spot for the Aug. 18 Republican primary to rhetorically ask the audience, "What's worse, socialists like Pelosi and AOC or the Republicans that surrender to them?" The ad does not mention retiring Rep. Ted Yoho, who was in the news last month after he called New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “fucking bitch” and only pretended to apologize for it.
● GA-02: The Office of Congressional Ethics published a report on Friday recommending that the House Ethics Committee investigate allegations that Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop misused taxpayer money and campaign funds for personal expenses.
The report stated that the OCE "found evidence that the Sanford Bishop for Congress campaign committee likely spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on fuel, golf expenses, meals, travel, tuition, and entertainment that likely were personal in nature." The OCE also said it "obtained evidence suggesting Rep. Bishop may have spent Members' Representation Allowance (MRA) funds on an annual holiday celebration in violation of House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law."
Bishop's office released a statement in response claiming that "he was made aware of mistakes made by his campaign and had already taken immediate action to bring it into compliance" before the OCE notified him of its review. The statement continued, "The Congressman recognizes that these mistakes should never have happened to begin with. Going forth, he intends to provide better oversight to ensure errors like this never happen again." Bishop faces no serious opposition in his bid for a 15th term this fall.
● IA-02: Is the fifth time the charm for the Congressional Leadership Fund? No, it is not. Once again, the CLF, which is the largest player in House races on the Republican side, has released a poll that doesn't even include a hint about the presidential contest—even though you'll almost always find that data in surveys put out by Democrats.
Why? Well, either the numbers just flat-out suck for Donald Trump, or they didn't even ask at all to avoid bringing down Trump's wrath. And frankly, the results they did share aren't even all that great for them: The poll, from Harper Polling, finds Democrat Rita Hart tied with Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks at 41 apiece in Iowa's open 2nd Congressional District, but with Joe Biden very probably ahead here, all of those undecided voters likely lean toward Hart. (Daily Kos Elections rates the race Lean Democratic.)
About three weeks ago, CNN's Harry Enten published an analysis showing that the rate that one party releases internal polls compared to the other correlates quite well with overall November election performance. At the time, the ratio was extremely lopsided in Democrats' favor, with Team Blue responsible for 93% of all partisan House polls, presaging another Republican wipeout.
Since that piece came out, CLF has been busy flooding the zone with whatever polling looks remotely passable, but with their surveys shorn—or bereft—of the most important data of all, the effort hasn't convinced any serious analysts to change their views of what's coming in the fall.
● MA-04: Some unpleasant social media posts written by Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss surfaced last week, including a 2016 tweet saying that the city of Cambridge was "taking PC too far" by doing away with Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous People's Day. This is not, however, the first time that Auchincloss, who is running in the crowded Sept. 1 Democratic primary for Massachusetts' open 4th Congressional District, has been on the defensive over his loyalties and past statements.
Auchincloss worked for Republican Charlie Baker's 2014 campaign for governor, which ended with Baker narrowly winning the post. At a debate earlier this year, Auchincloss defended his Democratic credentials and argued that, while he didn't agree with Baker on everything, "I felt that Governor Baker was the right leader for the moment and that he would be a competent leader for Massachusetts." Auchincloss also added that he'd voted for Baker again in 2018, when he won in a landslide despite that years' blue wave.
In 2016, Auchincloss urged a local superintendent not to punish Newton students who had flown a Confederate flag outside their high school. Auchincloss wrote that, while the community was right to "denounce this act of bigotry," the school district would be violating the students' freedom of speech by disciplining them.
Auchincloss continued by citing the free speech protections for students laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969, telling the superintendent, "[Y]ou are not 'content-neutral' in your proscriptions – I doubt you would ban a Black Lives Matter banner, for example, and I know you would not ban an LGBT flag, though these might sincerely upset some students."
This year, Auchincloss told Politico he "should have been a better ally" back then, adding, "My privilege allowed me to see this as a free speech issue, but I should have focused on the bigger, more important truth: the Confederate flag is a racist symbol of hate that has no place near a school―or frankly, anywhere in our society."
● MN-05: Gov. Tim Walz has endorsed Rep. Ilhan Omar ahead of next week's expensive Democratic primary.
● MO-01: While nurse and progressive activist Cori Bush had very little money and outside support during her 2018 primary bid against Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay, which ended in a 57-37 defeat for her, their second go-round has been quite different.
Bush has raised a credible amount of cash this time, and she's benefited from a total of $240,000 in outside spending from two groups, the Justice Democrats and Fight Corporate Monopolies, ahead of Tuesday's primary. Clay has been running attack ads against Bush, but according to Politico, the challenger and her allies have outspent him by at least $250,000.
Despite Clay's relatively weak victory last time, though, it would still be a true upset if he were to lose renomination on Tuesday in this safely blue seat. The St. Louis area has been represented by the Clay family for over 50 years: The incumbent's father, Bill Clay, was first elected here in 1968, and the younger Clay decisively won the primary to succeed him in 2000.
● TX-23: With the Texas GOP's final canvass now complete, Tony Gonzales leads Raul Reyes in the Republican primary for the state's 23rd Congressional District by a margin of 12,342 to 12,297, a difference of 45 votes. Reyes has filed a petition seeking a recount, which the party must respond to by Wednesday.
● UT-04: RMG Research, which is run by pollster Scott Rasmussen, has released a poll for the Deseret News and the University of Utah that shows Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams tied 35-35 with Republican Burgess Owens. The release did not mention the presidential numbers in this suburban Salt Lake City seat. The only other poll we've seen was a July survey from Moore Information on behalf of Owens' allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund, and it found the Republican ahead by a wide 43-34 as Trump led 46-40.