First up is the Cygnal survey of Iowa's major statewide races, conducted for the conservative group Iowans for Tax Relief. The firm shows GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley turning back Democrat Mike Franken 52-43, which would be an intimidating margin for just about any senator but would actually be the incumbent's smallest margin of victory by far since his initial 1980 victory. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, meanwhile, holds a wider 56-41 edge against Democrat Deidre DeJear.
This is the first time that Cygnal has released numbers for this Senate matchup (the firm's last poll in February tested Grassley against Abby Finkenauer, a former congresswoman who lost the June primary to Franken), but we've seen two other recent surveys here that also gave the incumbent a single-digit lead against the retired Navy vice admiral.
An early July Franken internal for Change Research put the Republican ahead 49-44, while more recent numbers from Selzer & Company on behalf of two media organizations showed him with a 47-39 advantage; pollster Ann Selzer called it Grassley's "weakest showing since 1980," when he was first elected to the Senate. (Selzer's gubernatorial numbers, by contrast, had Reynolds up 48-31 against DeJear, who was Team Blue's 2018 nominee for secretary of state.)
Cygnal, though, is the only outfit that's publicized numbers for the race for attorney general so far, finding Democratic incumbent Tom Miller with a tiny 45-44 edge over Guthrie County Attorney Brenna Bird, a Republican who previously worked as chief counsel to then-Gov. Terry Branstad, in his bid for a record 11th term. That's actually an improvement for Miller, though, from his 46-41 deficit in Cygnal's February survey.
Miller was elected to his post in 1978 but left in 1990 to unsuccessfully run for governor. However, he regained the job in 1994 and became the longest-serving attorney general in American history in 2020. (The record was previously held by Michigan Democrat Frank Kelley, who was appointed to fill a vacancy in 1961 and held office until his 1999 retirement; Kelley, though, still beats the Iowan for longest continuous service.) Miller has continued to pull off decisive victories even as his longtime swing state has lurched hard to the right over the last decade: The attorney general prevailed 56-44 during the 2014 red wave, and he didn't even draw a GOP opponent four years later.
Republicans, however, are making a serious drive to recapture the office they lost 44 years ago when Miller unseated incumbent Richard Turner in their second bout. Bird outraised the Democrat $420,000 to $360,000 from May 15 to July 14, and the two finished with similar cash-on-hand totals: $580,000 for Miller and $570,000 for Bird.
Hawkeye State Democrats, meanwhile, have shared surveys showing them in competitive positions against two different freshmen Republican congresswomen. In southeastern Iowa's 1st District, Change Research gives GOP Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks a 39-38 edge over state Rep. Christina Bohannan. (The local NBC affiliate says that this survey was part of the statewide poll conducted for Franken earlier this month, though Bohannan was the one who released it.) Bohannan's allies at 314 Action dropped their own numbers back in April that also had Miller-Meeks ahead by just a single point, 43-42, in a seat Trump would have taken 50-48, but we haven't seen any other polls in the intervening time.
Over to the north in the neighboring 2nd District, Public Policy Polling's survey for Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis finds her deadlocked 44-44 with incumbent Ashley Hinson. A February PPP poll for Mathis had Hinson up 43-42, and we also haven't seen any other numbers since then; Trump would have won 51-47 here.
In our previous Morning Digest, we also covered a survey in the 3rd District from Moore Information Group for Republican state Rep. Zach Nunn and the NRCC that had him tied 43-43 with Rep. Cindy Axne, who is currently the state's only Democratic member of Congress. We haven't seen any polls of Iowa's remaining congressional district, the 4th, but there's no question Republican incumbent Randy Feenstra will prevail in his 62-36 Trump constituency.
● MO-Sen: In the spring, we ragged on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson when he headlined a fundraiser for Senate hopeful Dave Schatz but insisted his appearance somehow did not constitute an "endorsement." Now Parson is acting like he doesn't know Schatz at all: The governor refused to say which candidate he voted for in the Aug. 2 GOP primary when he recently cast an absentee ballot. (Incidentally, Parson signed a bill banning most mail voting last month.)
That reticence may have something to do with the fact that Schatz, the president pro tem of the state Senate, has run a total failure of a campaign. Despite pouring $2 million of his own money into the race (he runs a family business that lays telecommunication cables), his best showing in any poll has found him with all of 4% of the vote.
Schatz simply appears to be out of step with today's Republican voters. "They're not looking for someone to continue to set things on fire and increase the rhetoric and say all the red meat issues," he recently told the Missouri Independent. "They want a common sense person that obviously solves things and is results over rhetoric." Primary after primary has shown us this simply isn't so, despite what Schatz might want to believe.
● OH-Sen: The Democratic group Innovation Ohio's newest internal from GrowProgress shows Tim Ryan beating Republican J.D. Vance 46-41, a small increase from the Democrat's 44-41 edge in early June.
● WI-Sen: State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, whom the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says hadn't run any TV ads for eight of the last nine weeks, has launched what her campaign says is a seven-figure buy ahead of the Aug. 9 Democratic primary. The spot features a clip from a recent debate where Godlewski, who is the only woman in the contest, tells her opponents, "Guys, I'm glad that now that Roe is overturned, you are all now sharing your own personal stories. But I was the only one talking about reproductive rights because for me, this is not an afterthought."
● MD-Gov: The Associated Press on Friday called the July 19 Democratic primary for former nonprofit head Wes Moore, and former DNC chair Tom Perez conceded the next day. Moore held a 34-29 lead over Perez on Sunday evening, though the margin could shift as more mail-in ballots are tabulated. Moore would be Maryland’s first Black chief executive, as well as the third African American elected governor of any state.
Moore’s Republican opponent in this dark blue state will be Trump-backed Del. Dan Cox, whom termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan has labeled a "conspiracy-theory-believing QAnon whack-job.” Hogan, who supported former state cabinet official Kelly Schulz in the primary, again expressed his disgust for Cox on Thursday, declaring, “We’re going to lose this seat … We don’t even have a campaign now.”
● MI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke recently ran a commercial arguing that conservative radio host Tudor Dixon is "endorsed by the RINO establishment's leading never-Trumpers," and she's responded with her own spot showing old footage of Trump praising her as "fantastic, brilliant, Tudor Dixon." NBC reported Friday that Dixon had only spent a mere $26,000 on ads for the Aug. 2 GOP primary compared to $4.3 million for Rinke, though a pro-Dixon group called Michigan Families United has deployed $1.5 million.
● NV-Gov: Republican Joe Lombardo has dropped an internal from The Tarrance Group that finds him trailing Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak by a tight 46-44 margin.
● NY-Gov: A man wielding a small weapon attacked Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin at a campaign stop near Rochester on Thursday but was quickly subdued by Zeldin and other event-goers. Zeldin was not injured and continued speaking after police apprehended the attacker, identified as David Jakubonis, who was charged with attempted assault, a felony.
● AZ-02: Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane earned Donald Trump's endorsement on Friday for the Aug. 2 GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran. That decision led Trump’s own audience to boo him at his Arizona rally hours later when he mentioned Crane; Trump meekly responded, “But you like me?”
Crane, unsurprisingly, is an ardent Big Lie spreader who has called for decertifying the 2020 election. He's far from the only election conspiracy theorist in the field, though: Roll Call writes that the one candidate at a recent event who acknowledged that Trump lost was Andy Yates, a businessman who has brought in little money.
Trump made his move days after Crane released a Moore Information Group survey showing him in first place in the crowded nomination contest with 19%, with state Rep. Walt Blackman and businessman Mark DeLuzio tied 12-12 for second; a 34% plurality were undecided, while Yates clocked in with 3%. (Another 14% selected "None of these Candidates," which is an option in neighboring Nevada but not in Arizona.) This seat in northern and eastern rural Arizona would have backed Trump 53-45, which is a significant shift from Biden's 50-48 win in the 1st District that O'Halleran currently holds.
● CT-05: Former state Sen. George Logan has publicized a late June internal from the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies that shows Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes outpacing him 46-41, which makes this the first survey we've seen here. Biden would have prevailed 55-44 in a northwestern Connecticut constituency that barely changed at all following redistricting.
Hayes ended last month with an imposing $1.7 million to $200,000 cash-on-hand lead over Logan, who has the Aug. 9 GOP primary to himself, but national Republicans have taken an interest here. The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund earlier this year reserved $1.75 million in fall TV time, though major Democratic outside groups have yet to book anything.
● MI-12: A recently formed group called Urban Empowerment Action PAC has spent $200,000 opposing Rep. Rashida Tlaib ahead of the Aug. 2 Democratic primary, and the Detroit News reports that it plans to deploy a total of $750,000 to promote her main opponent, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey. The PAC's TV spots are not available online, but the paper says that one goes after Tlaib over "her support for defunding the police."
The organization was created earlier this year with the stated goal of supporting "the educational empowerment and economic uplift of Black communities," though it quickly made it clear that this race would be its top priority. Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina legislator turned TV pundit, is the group's most high-profile supporter, and he specifically faulted Tlaib for casting a vote from the left last year against the Biden administration's infrastructure bill.
Sellers also told Politico he was concerned that Detroit, which is partially located in this safely blue seat, would not have an African American representative in the next Congress; Winfrey is Black, while Tlaib is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. Tlaib's existing 13th District forms just over half of the new 12th.
● MI-13: The crypto-aligned Protect Our Future recently spent $760,000 to support state Sen. Adam Hollier ahead of next month's Democratic primary for this safely blue seat, which makes it the latest well-funded organization to get involved on his behalf. The Detroit News notes that AIPAC has dropped a massive $3.23 million to promote Hollier and attack self-funding state Rep. Shri Thanedar, while VoteVets has spent another $760,000 for the same purpose. Seven other Democrats are on the ballot, but no major outside groups have spent anything to help or hinder any of them.
● OH-09: Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur's newest commercial not only reminds viewers that Republican J.R. Majewski took part in the Jan. 6 attack, but it also uses audio of Majewski himself speaking favorably of secession. The audience hears the GOP nominee muse, "Every state that went red should secede from the United States," to which the narrator asks, "Does Majewski really want Ohio to secede?"
● Baltimore, MD State's Attorney: The Associated Press has projected that defense attorney Ivan Bates has defeated incumbent Marilyn Mosby in the expensive Democratic primary to serve as the top prosecutor for the city of Baltimore. Bates on Sunday evening led prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah, who sported a cross-party endorsement from GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, 40-31, while Mosby was in third with 29%; there are still mail-in ballots to be tabulated, but both Vignarajah and Mosby have conceded. Democrats have won every election for this post since 1920, and Bates should have no trouble extending that streak in the fall.
Mosby, who rose to national prominence in 2015 just months into her first term when she charged six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, fended off Bates 49-28 in 2018, with the balance going to Vignarajah. This year, though, the state’s attorney was indicted for allegedly filing false mortgage applications and lying to federal prosecutors. Rather than focus on her legal problems, however, Bates and Vignarajah argued that Mosby had done a poor job prosecuting crime and that they would have a better relationship with law enforcement groups.
Mosby herself raised little money for her bid for a third term and was badly outspent by her two opponents; Bates also benefited from heavy spending from a super PAC funded by 2020 mayoral candidate Mary Miller.
● Baltimore County, MD State’s Attorney: The Democratic primary remains unresolved, but four-term incumbent Scott Shellenberger now holds a 51-49 lead over attorney Robbie Leonard with 77,000 votes counted, a reversal from election night.
● Montgomery County, MD Executive: After trailing on election night, incumbent Marc Elrich now has a 39.4-39.1 edge―a margin of 276 votes―against wealthy businessman David Blair with close to 100,000 Democratic primary ballots counted, though the AP has not yet called the race. Four years ago, Elrich beat Blair in a 77-vote cliffhanger.
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