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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Massachusetts held its primary Tuesday, and you can find the results here. We’ll have a rundown in our next Morning Digest.
● AK-AL: While state and national political watchers continue to speculate that Sarah Palin might do her party a favor and drop out of the November election against Democratic Rep.-elect Mary Peltola following her disastrous defeat in last week's instant-runoff special election, she doesn't sound remotely interested in going anywhere right now.
Palin instead used her Monday press conference at her Wasilla home, which was the very same place where she announced she was quitting the governorship 13 years ago, to bash fellow Republican Nick Begich. "He keeps calling me a quitter," Palin said, "And now he wants me, the one who is clearly the only true conservative in this race who can win, he wants me to quit!" She continued, "Now that's the real joke. Sorry, Nick. I never retreat, I reload." (Back in 2009, Palin ended her resignation speech, "In the words of General MacArthur said, 'We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.'")
Begich didn't find the situation particularly funny, though: Instead, he put out a statement reading, "Ranked choice voting showed that Palin simply doesn't have enough support from Alaskans to win an election and her performance in the Special was embarrassing as a former Governor and Vice Presidential candidate." The deadline for candidates to remove their names from the general election ballot passed later that day without any action from Palin, Begich, or Libertarian Chris Bye.
All of this may be giving the GOP an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu ahead of what will be another instant-runoff contest, because Palin and Begich also spent the special election savaging one another while laying off Peltola. Both Republicans instead smiled in selfies with their Democratic opponent, and Palin even went so far as to call her a "sweetheart." All of this made it easier for Peltola to convince about half of Begich's voters not to rank Palin as their second choice: Palin only won Begich's bloc 50-29, while a crucial 21% didn't express a preference for either finalist.
However, while the two defeated candidates once again seem content to keep attacking each other instead of the soon-to-be-incumbent, national Republican groups are unlikely to let Peltola go through the general election unscathed. Peltola, who will be sworn in on Sept. 13, told Politico, "I do expect attacks [approaching the November election]," though she added, "I do feel a sense of camaraderie and fraternity with the other people who are running."
Peltola also acknowledged that she has to quickly gear up for her next contest, and she's already returned to the airwaves with a new spot taking the U.S. Supreme Court to task for revoking "one of Alaska's most fundamental freedoms: Our right to choose." Peltola argued, "The federal government has no business taking away our freedoms … we should have the right to make choices that work for ourselves and our families." That's not normally a message we'd expect to see in a constituency that Donald Trump carried 53-43, but Civiqs finds that Alaskans agree that abortion should be legal in all or most cases by a similar 54-43 margin.
● AZ-Sen: While most Republican candidates continue to be reluctant to discuss abortion at all, the NRSC is instead testing out an anti-choice message against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly with a new ad. After attacking the senator over immigration and education, the narrator insists, "He even supports extreme last minute abortions right before baby's birth." Kelly voted for the Women's Health Protection Act earlier this year, which would prevent states from restricting access to abortion.
● NH-Sen: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC on Thursday began what's now a $5.9 million ad buy attacking state Senate President Chuck Morse, a campaign that began the day after a newly-established GOP group launched its own expensive ad campaign promoting Morse in the Sept. 13 Republican primary. The buy came around the same time that the conservative Senate Leadership Fund, which up till now had bypassed this contest, announced that it was reserving $23 million in general election ads against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.
SMP's commercial does not mention retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, a far-right conspiracy theorist that plenty of vocal Republicans fear would be a terrible nominee. The spot instead opens, "Mitch McConnell's Washington establishment is going all-in for Chuck Morse," with the narrator continuing, "Lobbyists are even running his campaign." He goes on, "One lobbyist worked for a Chinese company owned by a Communist Party official. And Morse hired another who lobbied for a mail order pharmacy that flooded New England with opioids."
Politico notes that, even if these spots aren't enough to keep Morse from winning next week, they could still damage his image ahead of a general election against Hassan.
● Senate: Just before Labor Day, multiple media outlets published stories detailing the myriad of intra-party headaches facing Republicans as they try to flip the Senate.
Most notable is a lengthy New York Times article reporting that under chair Rick Scott, the NRSC's "enormous gamble on finding new online donors has been a costly financial flop in 2022." Mitch McConnell himself wouldn't comment Monday when reporters asked if he had confidence in Scott's performance, while Scott responded to McConnell's recent criticisms about "candidate quality" with a statement declaring, "It's an amazing act of cowardice, and ultimately, it's treasonous to the conservative cause."
In addition, both the Washington Post and CNN detail McConnell's frustration with billionaire Peter Thiel, who spent massive amounts to help Arizona's Blake Masters and Ohio's J.D. Vance win their respective primaries but has so far refused to open up his wallet to aid the two much-derided nominees in the general election. McConnell's Senate Leadership Fund last month booked a massive $28 million to help Vance—despite Ohio's progression toward firmly red-state status—before it announced it was canceling $8 million intended for swingy Arizona.
● MI-Gov: New campaign finance numbers are in covering July 18 through Aug. 22, a 35-day-period that covers the three weeks following Tudor Dixon's victory in the Aug. 2 GOP primary, and they show that party donors remain stingy when it comes to helping their new nominee. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outraised Dixon $2.4 million to $690,000, and she retains a ginormous $14 million to $520,000 cash-on-hand lead. Simon Schuster of MLive.com notes that the reports show that Dixon's campaign has all of two staffers on its payroll, and that she hasn't thrown any fundraisers since her primary win.
Dixon, though, does have one very wealthy clan that could turn the financial situation around. The DeVos family has contributed $4 million since May toward outside groups that attacked Whitmer or promoted Dixon, and one Democratic strategist predicted to CNBC that they could spend anywhere between $10 million to $30 million to flip this office.
IL-Gov: Victory Research (R): J.B. Pritzker (D-inc): 47, Darren Bailey (R): 36 (July: 49-39 Pritzker)
OR-Gov: Clout Research (R): Christine Drazan (R): 33, Tina Kotek (D): 32, Betsy Johnson (I): 21
WI-Gov: OnMessage Inc. (R) for School Choice Wisconsin Leadership: Tony Evers (D-inc): 48, Tim Michels (R): 48
The Clout survey was conducted Aug. 10-14, while the other two were done in late August or early September.
● NH-01: National Republicans have dramatically escalated their spending in recent days to help 2020 nominee Matt Mowers, who is seeking a rematch with Democratic incumbent Chris Pappas, prevail in the Sept. 13 primary. The Daily Beast notes that the Congressional Leadership Fund has spent $1.3 million here to promote Mowers, while its allies at Defending Main Street have spent $560,000 to attack his main intra-party rival, former White House staffer Karoline Leavitt.
The latter group may also make history by featuring the first-ever use of the words "ho bags" in a campaign ad. Defending Main Street's commercial calls Leavitt, who is 25, a "woke Gen-Zer" who "records everything," a statement that is followed with a SnapChat clip of the candidate laughingly exclaiming, "Listen up, ho bags." The narrator continues, "She wants to bring her generation's new vision to Congress. You know, mooching off her parents, [and] running up huge credit card debt."
Major outside groups have so far ignored a third GOP candidate, former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown, but she's getting some attention herself with a commercial that promotes abortion rights. She tells the audience that she "chose my unborn child" after her doctor warned that Huff Brown's own life was at risk, "But in that agonizing moment, I was comforted to know I had a choice." She continues, "In Congress, I'll vote to protect the New Hampshire law, and the choice that it guarantees."
● TX-28: At least $21,000 is going towards a TV ad where Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar touts his work on public safety and border security, but this commercial is coming from his taxpayer funded D.C. office rather than his campaign. Cuellar can do this because, as Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin explained earlier this summer, House members "are allowed to use official funds for TV ads, as long as they cover official business and steer clear of campaign content."
The only incumbent we've seen run these sorts of spots, though, is Florida Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who won renomination in last month's Democratic primary. Rubashkin noted that all sorts of "unsolicited mass communications" from the members' office need to stop 60 days before their next election (a 2020 law slashed this from 90 days), so this Cuellar spot will only be allowed to air through Friday.
● Independent Expenditures: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to roll out our biennial chart tracking independent expenditures from the four largest groups involved in House races: the DCCC and the House Majority PAC for Democrats, and the NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund for Republicans.
These expenditures—which can be unlimited in size but, by law, cannot be made in coordination with the campaigns they're benefitting—provide a critical guide to the races that both sides believe will either make or break their hopes for a majority. They define, in short, the 2022 House battlefield, as the most sophisticated and well-funded players see it. But they're by no means infallible, and sometimes, everyone gets it wrong: Just days before the 2020 elections, for instance, one report said, "Both parties now agree the race is tied" in Arkansas' 2nd District, but Republican Rep. French Hill went on to win a fourth term by 11 points.
These four organizations are also by no means the only players when it comes to House races, and sometimes even those ostensibly on the same side can find themselves at odds. Perhaps the most notable recent example came in 2018 in Virginia’s 10th District when the NRCC kept spending heavily to save Rep. Barbara Comstock even as CLF refused to help. Then-NRCC chair Steve Stivers insisted in September, “The last poll I looked at, she's winning. I'm not going to cut off somebody who is winning.” Reports at the time, though, said that CLF was frustrated the NRCC wouldn’t cut the incumbent loose and focus on more winnable seats. CLF turned out to be right, as Comstock went down in a 12-point defeat.
Spending decisions can also be driven by parochial interests, especially for the super PACs, which are each tightly linked to their party's leadership but are heavily dependent on their largest contributors. (The maximum an individual can give to a party committee is $36,500 per year; for super PACs, there's no limit at all.) This was best exemplified by HMP's heavily criticized decision to spend $1 million on a first-time candidate in an Oregon House primary earlier this year after a billionaire donor with an unclear interest in the race gave the PAC $6 million (that candidate got crushed).
Overall, though, it pays to follow the money if you want to know where the action will be centered, and the best way to do that is to follow this quartet, which we sometimes refer to as "the Big Four." So far, all of the spending we've tracked to date has been in races that have long been on analysts' target lists, so there are no surprises to discuss as yet. But that's sure to change, and the roster of seats is certain to grow, so we'll be updating our chart weekly from now through Election Day and will report on any notable expenditures in the Digest.
One final note: This new chart replaces our older chart tracking announced fall TV ad reservations from this same set of groups. The earlier chart shows where the Big Four said they intended to spend; the new chart shows where they actually have done so. In addition, the new chart includes all expenditures (such as for mailers, radio, or online ads), not just television ads.
NC-13: GSG (D) for Wiley Nickel: Wiley Nickel (D): 44, Bo Hines (R): 40
OR-05: Clout Research (R): Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R): 44, Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D): 34
OR-06: Clout Research (R): Mike Erickson (R): 43, Andrea Salinas (D): 34
WA-03: Expedition Strategies (D) for Marie Gluesenkamp Perez: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D): 47, Joe Kent (R): 45
This is the first survey we've seen out of Washington's 3rd District since Kent edged out his fellow Republican, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, in the early August top-two primary. Perez, for her part, says she raised $600,000 last month, which would be more than twice what she'd brought in for the entire campaign as of mid-July.
● Moon Landrieu: Former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu, who led the desegregation of city government during his tenure from 1970 to 1978 and served as patriarch of an influential Louisiana Democratic family, died Monday at age 92. We take a look at Landrieu’s long political career, including his early years as one of just two state legislators to vote against anti-school integration bills during the end of the Jim Crow era, in our detailed obituary.
Landrieu sought the city’s top job in a campaign for the Democratic nomination that spanned from 1969 to 1970 (Louisiana wouldn’t adopt its current all-party primary system for several more years), but he had to overcome serious opposition in a crowded field. The most prominent candidate was former City Councilman Jimmy Fitzmorris, who had narrowly failed to unseat termed-out incumbent Victor Schiro in a 1965 bid managed by none other than Landrieu.
Landrieu only narrowly managed to make it to the runoff against Fitzmorris, who enjoyed a wide lead in the first round. The underdog, though, helped turn things around at a debate when, unlike Fitzmorris, Landrieu answered in the affirmative when asked if he’d appoint a Black man to head a major city department. However, while the new mayor made good on his word to appoint considerably more Black people to municipal jobs, he joined other city and state officials in remaining silent in 1973 when an arsonist murdered 32 patrons in a gay bar called the UpStairs Lounge in what at the time was the deadliest attack on LGBTQ Americans.
Check out our obituary for much more on Landrieu’s campaigns and service during this important period in Louisiana and New Orleans history.