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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● AZ-Sen: Less than two weeks after the NRSC cut $3.5 million in September TV ad reservations in Arizona, Politico's Burgess Everett reports that the committee's super PAC counterpart, the Senate Leadership Fund, is slashing another $8 million in bookings, the strongest sign to date that Republicans have grave doubts about Blake Masters' ability to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.
What makes SLF's decision all the more remarkable is that the organization, which has close ties to Mitch McConnell, is seemingly flush: As of June 30, the PAC had $105 million in the bank and has undoubtedly raised more in the two months since. That stands in sharp contrast with the NRSC, which had just $23 million on hand at the end of July (though super PACs, unlike party committees, can accept donations of unlimited size).
So why pull back? SLF's own president, Steven Law, claimed that "other offensive opportunities … have become increasingly competitive," though at this point, Georgia and Nevada are the only states he could plausibly have in mind (and note that the NRSC also recently canceled $1.5 million in TV time in the latter). But more telling—if he's being truthful—is Law's admission that his group faces "an unexpected expense in Ohio, "a reference to the fact that SLF recently announced it was pouring $28 million into the Buckeye State to bail out the GOP's hapless candidate there, J.D. Vance.
The New York Times' Shane Goldmacher also offered another theory: SLF is trying to send a message to Masters' chief benefactor, billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Thiel's own super PAC spent $15 million to help Masters—an employee and protégé—win the Republican primary earlier this month, much as he did for Vance in May. But like some sort of malign deist entity, it seems that Thiel birthed Masters and Vance only to abandon the universe we know as the general election.
So now, according to this argument, the SLF is desperately hoping to signal Thiel and all but force him to intervene. If true, though, the fact that the best-funded Republican super PAC has to resort to drastic advertising cuts to get the attention of one of the GOP's wealthiest megadonors is not a sign of harmonious party. And even if Thiel does belatedly return to the playing field, he'll have to pay higher advertising rates, since rates go up the closer you get to Election Day.
Republicans still insist Arizona is play, and simply given its swing-state status, it probably is. But if they do ultimately give up on Masters, the path back to a majority for the GOP, which is facing an increasingly likely loss in Pennsylvania, will grow exceptionally narrow.
● MO-Sen: YouGov for Saint Louis University: Eric Schmitt (R): 49, Trudy Busch Valentine (D): 38
● NC-Sen: A Senate Majority PAC affiliate has launched a new ad attacking Republican Ted Budd for supporting a national ban on abortion without exception for rape or incest that would criminalize those who provide it. The spot is part of a $750,000 buy that follows approximately $2 million in earlier spending. While SMP and their counterparts at the DSCC previously did not include North Carolina in their fall ad reservations earlier this spring, those are subject to change given changing conditions, and it's notable that SMP is still trying to put this race on the board now that it's nearly September.
● FL-Gov: The DGA has released a poll from Impact Research taken the day before the Aug. 23 Democratic primary that found newly minted nominee Charlie Crist trailing GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis by a modest 51-46 spread. There have been very few polls of this race released this summer. However, this latest result is a few points better for Crist than a recent survey from the GOP firm Cherry Communications for DeSantis' allies that showed him ahead 51-43 and a poll from the University of North Florida that gave the governor a similar 50-42 lead, both of which were conducted earlier in August.
● KS-Gov: State Sen. Dennis Pyle, a former Republican who left his party earlier this year to become an independent, has qualified for the November ballot, elections officials announced on Thursday. Pyle was aided in his quest by Kansas Democrats, who hope that he'll pull votes away from Republican nominee Derek Schmidt and improve Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's chances at re-election. (Pyle has denounced Schmidt as insufficiently conservative and called the major-party candidates "two peas in a pod.")
The only recent poll of the race, a survey for allies of Schmidt, found Pyle taking just 2%, with Schmidt edging out Kelly 48-45, but there's no telling yet whether Democrats plan to spend money to boost Pyle's name recognition.
● MI-08: Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee and Republican challenger Paul Junge have released a back-and-forth series of ads touching on Junge's ties to Michigan and his long absence from the state.
The most recent spot comes from Kildee, who notes that Junge spent 40 years living outside the state, 30 of those in California. Kildee charges Junge only moved back to Michigan ahead of a bid for a House seat in the Detroit area in 2020, when he lost to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin. Now Junge is running in a different district in a totally different part of the state—the Flint and Tri-Cities area, where he's never lived.
Kildee's spot is a retort to a Junge ad that itself was responding to similar initial attacks from Kildee about Junge's ties to central Michigan. In that ad, Junge argued that Kildee is trying to distract from inflation, saying he was born in Michigan and claiming his family "moved around a lot" because his parents worked on military bases. He says he moved to Washington to work for the Department of Homeland Security and then to California to be near his dying father.
As The Detroit News notes, Junge was born in Michigan in 1966 and lived there until 1974, when his parents moved to California for work. He spent most of his adult life in the Golden State before earning a graduate degree from the University of Michigan in 2008. However, Junge then once again moved back to California for work, followed by more recent stints in D.C. It wasn't until 2018 that he returned to California to care for his father.
● NY-10: Haaretz reports that the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC acknowledged shortly after New York's primary that it had given "significant support" to a mystery group that had dropped $395,000 just before the Democratic primary in New York's open 10th Congressional District.
That organization, called New York Progressive PAC, ran digital ads and sent out mailers attacking Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou's opposition to a low-income housing development and claiming she "supports the anti-Semitic BDS agenda." In July, Niou had said she supports BDS, a movement that seeks to pressure the state of Israel through boycotts, divestment, and sanctions, but she more recently sought to distance herself from the effort, saying, "I do not agree with all of its demands nor do I embrace all of its tactics." Niou lost the primary to attorney Daniel Goldman by a 26-24 margin.
AIPAC, which also supports numerous Republicans who voted against certifying Joe Biden's victory, has been one of the top outside spenders in Democratic primaries nationally this cycle. However, its previous interventions have all come through its United Democracy Project, making it notable that the organization sought to conceal its involvement in this race until after all votes were cast.
● VA-07: Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is putting $289,000 behind her first general election ad, which is a spot attacking Republican Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega on abortion. The commercial blasts Vega for cheering on the ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, wrongly suggesting women can't get pregnant from rape, and supporting a national abortion ban without exceptions.
● DCCC: The DCCC announced a second round of fall TV ad reservations on Friday, totaling $24 million across 22 different media markets. The most notable new market the committee is investing in is Eugene, Oregon, which overlaps heavily with the state's redrawn 4th District. There, Democrat Val Hoyle is facing off against Republican Alek Skarlatos for an open seat that Democrats made several points bluer in redistricting: While the prior version went for Joe Biden by a 51-47 spread, the new iteration would have supported the president by a larger 55-42 margin.
This latest set of bookings brings the D-Trip's total reserved airtime to just shy of $46 million. You can explore a full rundown of all of the committee's new reservations, as well as those from the House Majority PAC, NRCC, and Congressional Leadership Fund, with our continually updated tracker.
Secretaries of State
● MA-SoS: Ahead of the Sept. 6 Democratic primary, MassINC has conducted a poll for the liberal group Priorities for Progress that finds longtime Secretary of State Bill Galvin up 53-20 over Boston NAACP President Tanisha Sullivan (Galvin previously led 52-15 in June). Those results are similar to a poll released days before from GOP firm Advantage, Inc. that gave Galvin a slightly larger 55-14 lead. Meanwhile on Friday, EMILY's List endorsed Sullivan.
● MI Ballot: A new Michigan poll from EPIC-MRA has good news for Democrats and progressives on all fronts. Most notably, it shows voters giving overwhelming support to a measure to amend the state constitution to enshrine the right to an abortion, with 67% in favor and just 24% opposed. This appears to be the first poll on the amendment, which the state's Bureau of Elections just recommended appear on the November ballot. A separate body called the Board of State Canvassers will issue a final decision on Aug. 31.
The survey also finds Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leading Republican Tudor Dixon 50-39, while state Attorney General Dana Nessel has a 44-39 edge on Republican Matthew DePerno and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is up 44-38 on Republican Kristina Karamo.
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor: UC Berkeley has conducted a poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times that finds Democratic Rep. Karen Bass up 43-31 over billionaire developer Rick Caruso in November's mayoral general election, with 24% undecided. That advantage is slightly larger than Bass' 43-36 plurality in the June top-two primary, where two other progressive candidates had also combined for nearly 15%.