The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
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● OH-Sen: The conservative Senate Leadership Fund announced Thursday that it was reserving―cue the Dr. Evil Voice―28 million dollars in TV and radio time for after Labor Day to help Republican J.D. Vance fend off Democrat Tim Ryan in a contest where national Republicans likely expected to spend $0 just a short while ago.
But Vance, who won the May primary shortly after getting Trump’s endorsement, has spent months dealing with articles detailing his fellow Republicans' complaints about his campaign, or lack of it. “The Republican faithful are telling me they can't find J.D. Vance with a search warrant,” conservative radio host Bill Cunningham told the Daily Beast in July. Fellow talk radio presenter Ron Verb was even less kind, griping, “I think he’s running the worst campaign that you could possibly run,” while one GOP operative said to NBC, “They are burning bridges faster than they can build them.”
Republicans also fretted about Vance’s underwhelming fundraising numbers from the second quarter of 2022, with one unnamed source telling the Daily Beast, “When the fundraising numbers came out, it’s full-on panic now.” It took another month, though, for prominent GOP groups to set their panic level to full-on even as Ryan and his allies released several polls showing him ahead in a state that Trump decisively carried twice.
The NRSC and Vance a few weeks ago launched a coordinated buy for $1 million to help the nominee air his first ad since he won the nomination, while its allies at One Nation devoted $3.8 million towards attacking Ryan. SLF’s investment, however, marks a dramatic escalation here: Indeed, NBC notes that the super PAC so far has devoted more money to only two other Senate contests, Georgia and Pennsylvania. SLF is almost certainly hoping that its $28 million offensive will at least be enough to sink Ryan and take this race off the map.
Even if it does, though, the damage may go far beyond Ohio: As one national GOP operative told NBC, “Every dollar spent on his race is a dollar not spent in a more competitive state.” That’s also an especially big sacrifice for Team Red to make now that SLF’s allies at the NRSC have needed to cut planned TV time in other races in the face of fundraising issues.
● CO-Sen: Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet is going up with his first negative ad against Republican Joe O'Dea, focusing on abortion rights. Bennet's commercial touts his work protecting abortion access while chastising O'Dea for opposing such measures and stating he would have voted to confirm Donald Trump's and George W. Bush's Supreme Court appointees, who were responsible for overturning Roe v. Wade.
● NC-Sen, NC Supreme Court: Republican firm Cygnal, polling on behalf of the conservative John Locke Foundation, has surveyed North Carolina's hotly contested statewide races and finds the Senate election tied 42-42 between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd. That's an improvement for Beasley compared to Cygnal's previous poll in June, which had Budd ahead 45-40.
Looking further down the ballot at the state Supreme Court, Cygnal finds Republican attorney Trey Allen leading Democratic Justice Sam Ervin IV 45-40, which is a drop from Allen's 49-39 lead in June. In the other contest for an open Democratic-held seat, Republican Richard Dietz holds a similar 45-39 edge over Democrat Lucy Inman, a fellow Court of Appeals judge, which is also a modest gain for Democrats compared to Diet's 49-38 advantage two months ago. Democrats currently hold a 4-3 majority on the high court, but Republicans would flip it if they win either seat up this November.
● OK-Sen-B: The Republican pollster Amber Integrated's first, and probably last, look at Tuesday's GOP primary runoff shows Rep. Markwayne Mullin beating former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon 49-31. Mullin also got some extra welcome news this week when he earned the backing of Gov. Kevin Stitt.
● AZ-Gov: An RGA ad attacking Democrat Katie Hobbs on immigration earlier this month featured a purported "advocate for human trafficking victims" who castigated Hobbs for enabling human traffickers to cross the border, but the Arizona Mirror reports that the woman identified as Traci Hansen has no involvement with actual anti-trafficking groups. Instead, Hansen has ties to QAnon activists, who have made false claims about human trafficking a centerpiece of their conspiracy theories, and participated in a march at the state capitol organized by a local QAnon adherent.
● MI-Gov: The bipartisan duo of Republican pollster Fabrizio Ward and Democratic firm Impact Research have conducted a poll for the AARP that finds Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leading 51-46 over newly minted Republican nominee Tudor Dixon, marking their first foray into this year's contest. This result is notably closer than the few others released by other pollsters this year, who had found Whitmer similarly close to 50% but her opponent with significantly less support while the GOP primary was ongoing and Dixon was still getting her name out.
● FL-01: While wealthy businessman Mark Lombardo has used most of his ads to remind GOP primary voters about the ongoing federal sex trafficking investigation against incumbent Matt Gaetz, his new commercial speculates without evidence that Gaetz is "the informant" who talked to the FBI ahead of its Mar-a-Lago search.
The narrator begins, "When Trump really endorses someone, he goes big. You've seen none of that for lying Matt Gaetz." After asking what Trump knows about the congressman, she continues, "Is Gaetz the informant? Gaetz hired Jeffrey Epstein's attorney. Another Epstein attorney approved the raid on Trump's house." The commercial tries to bring it back to Gaetz by arguing, "Remember, Gaetz pressured Trump to give him a pardon, but Trump said no."
Gaetz, for his part, is airing his own spot that utilizes clips of Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis praising him to the stars. While this piece is unlikely to generate anywhere near as much attention as Lombardo's commercial, more viewers in this Pensacola-area district may see it on their televisions: NBC reports that the incumbent has so far outspent his self-funding opponent $1 million to $400,000 on TV.
● NH-01: A pair of newly released polls by Republican firms find 2020 GOP nominee Matt Mowers, who has the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, with a sizable edge over former White House staffer Karoline Leavitt ahead of the Sept. 13 Republican primary.
The first poll, by the Tarrance Group for the McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, has Mowers beating Leavitt 37-13 with 10% for state Rep. Tim Baxter, 8% for former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown, and 6% for former state Executive Councilor Russell Prescott. The second poll by co/efficient on behalf of the conservative-leaning NH Journal has Mowers ahead by a similar 31-16 margin while Baxter earned 9%, Brown took 8%, and Prescott notched just 3%.
These two polls stand in sharp contrast with a recent Saint Anselm College survey that found Mowers ahead of Leavitt just 25-21.
● NY-10, NY-12: Donald Trump tried to troll Democrats in the 10th and 12th Districts on Wednesday evening by "endorsing" Dan Goldman, who was the House Democrats' lead counsel during his first impeachment, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney in their respective Aug. 23 primaries. Trump also sarcastically praised Maloney's main foe, fellow incumbent Jerry Nadler, writing, "You can't go wrong with either, but Carolyn Maloney is the better man." Congresswoman Maloney and Goldman both responded by making it clear how much they despised Trump, with Goldman calling it "a pathetic attempt at fooling Democrats who are far smarter than Trump is."
However, several of Goldman's intra-party foes―17th District Rep. Mondaire Jones and Assemblywomen Yuh-Line Niou and Jo Anne Simon―acted as though they believed Trump really was supporting their opponent; attorney Suraj Patel, who is trying to unseat both Maloney and Nadler, also said this shows "Donald Trump is scared of a younger, more dynamic Democratic Party." Two notable 10th District candidates, former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman and New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, avoided bringing the matter up.
Rivera is also getting some late support in the final days from Nuestro PAC, a group devoted to reaching out to Latino voters. The PAC is spending $500,000 on a TV and digital effort for Rivera, who like most of the field has not been airing TV spots herself in the ultra-expensive New York City media market.
● NY-22: NBC reports that the Congressional Leadership Fund is spending another $170,000 to boost businessman Steve Wells in next week's Republican primary on top of the $350,000 it's already deployed on his behalf. Wells faces Navy veteran Brandon Williams, who has brought in considerably less money, for the nomination in a Syracuse-based seat Biden would have carried 53-44.
● San Jose, CA Mayor: In a surprise, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez earned a general election endorsement this week from City Councilwoman Dev Davis, who finished third in the June nonpartisan primary with 10% of the vote. The move was unexpected because Chavez and Davis hail from opposite political factions: Chavez is a longtime labor leader, albeit one who has influential supporters in the business community, while Davis has aligned with business groups.
Chavez' general election foe is City Councilman Matt Mahan, who has a similar voting record as Davis, and the defeated candidate acknowledged that "if it was only a question of similar views, my choice would have been easier—and it would have gone the other way." Davis, though, noted that Mahan had only been elected in 2020 and argued, "No successful large business hires an inexperienced businessperson to lead them. As voters in one of America's largest cities, we have to acknowledge that political leadership experience matters too."
Mahan earned an endorsement as well from termed-out Mayor Sam Liccardo, but the incumbent has long made it clear that Mahan is his guy. Indeed, Liccardo's PAC spent heavily to help Mahan in June, though Chavez ultimately outpaced the councilman 39-32 in the first round.