FL-Sen, OH-Sen, PA-Sen: So those new swing state polls from Quinnipiac that had people worked up over how close they showed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump actually contain …good news for Democratic Senate candidates? So they do. In Ohio, Quinnipiac finds Democratic ex-Gov. Ted Strickland edging GOP Sen. Rob Portman 43-42, essentially unchanged from Strickland’s 44-42 lead in February. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Democrat Katie McGinty has seen a considerable post-nomination bounce and now trails GOP Sen. Pat Toomey 45-44, much tighter than the 47-38 advantage Toomey had a month ago.
Florida’s always more complicated, because the Sunshine State doesn’t hold its primary until August, and Quinnipiac matched all five Republicans against both of the Democrats running, Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. Murphy performs better, leading all five matchups by anywhere from 36-35 (against Rep. Ron DeSantis) to 38-32 (versus wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff). Grayson also does best against Beruff but only leads by 1 point, 36-35. He ties Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera at 37 apiece and trails the other three Republicans (DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, and businessman Todd Wilcox) by 2 points in each case.
In any event, if you believe that Quinnipiac’s samples were too bearish for Clinton, then they’d be underestimating Democrats’ chance in these three Senate races, too. But even if you think these polls are spot-on, Democrats ought to be quite pleased to see all these tossups, especially in the case of McGinty, who has evidently caught up quite a bit.
However, there’s still an issue of concern: Quinnipiac’s surveys were in the field for an inordinate length of time, from April 27 to May 8. A normal poll is conducted over three nights; this one took 12 days. And something rather momentous took place in that timeframe, namely, the fact that Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee (and the media finally—mostly—started treating Clinton as the winner, too). You never know how a long field period will affect a poll, but that’s precisely why you try to keep them short in the first place. This is a very good reason to wait and see what other polls have to say before coming to any conclusions.
• CO-Sen: When one of the 16,067 signatures you submitted to get on the ballot turns out to have been a forgery, what are the odds that that was the only one? Last week, a liberal activist group called ProgressNow discovered that one of the signatures on ex-state Rep. Jon Keyser’s petitions was fraudulent—a fact confirmed by the voter whose name was forged (and had, it turns out, signed a petition for another Republican candidate).
Now, unsurprisingly, the problem has become a whole lot worse. Denver7, a local TV station, pored over Keyser’s petitions and found 10 more forgeries, after speaking directly with voters who said their names were falsely signed. Keyser’s campaign had originally tried to bluster its way out of trouble, calling ProgressNow’s original report an “ill-fated stunt” orchestrated by “sleazy liberal[s].” With the evidence of serious issues piling up, Keyser’s changed his tune: Now he’s saying nothing.
However, it’s not clear what exactly will transpire next. The Colorado secretary of state’s office says that it only checks to see whether a voter’s name and address match his or her registration record—they don’t verify signatures. Denver7 says that voters can contact their local district attorneys if they’re concerned their signature has been forged, but what’s more likely is that a rival Republican campaign will sue to knock Keyser off of next month’s primary ballot. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet can just enjoy the chaos. But ironic, isn’t it, that Republicans are always the ones yammering about voter fraud?
• NH-Sen: On behalf of the conservative group Senate Leadership Fund, GS Strategy Group is out with a late April survey giving GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte a 47-43 edge over Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Most recent polls have given Ayotte a small edge; the HuffPost average, which does not include the GS numbers, gives Ayotte a 43-39 lead. In fact, it’s unclear why SLF decided to release this survey at all, since it really doesn’t seem to tell us anything we didn’t already know.
• OH-Sen: The conservative group Fighting for Ohio Fund is out with their second spot from their opening $1.5 million buy. This time, the narrator blames ex-Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland for the job losses his state suffered during the Great Recession (without mentioning that whole Great Recession bit of course), and accuses him of then “cashing in” after losing re-election by “joining a liberal special interest group that lobbied for Obama’s war on Ohio coal.”
• MT-Gov: The Republican Governors Association is out with their second TV spot against Democratic incumbent Steve Bullock. Once again, the narrator accuses Bullock of flying the state plane to numerous campaign events. As we noted last time, Bullock’s campaign events coincided with trips for official business, a practice previous governors had employed. In response to criticism, though, Bullock instituted a new policy requiring that he reimburse the state for any additional expenses due to such “ancillary” events, and he paid back $2,700 last month. Of course, the RGA once again glosses over that.
To shake things up, the RGA also accuses Bullock of raising millions for a liberal DC group that’s “paying for false ads to help Bullock cover up his plane scandal.” The narrator is referring to the Democratic Governors Association, which Bullock used to chair. The DGA recently hit presumptive Republican candidate Greg Gianforte, a wealthy businessman, with their own ad. The Gianforte campaign said that Team Blue’s commercial was untrue: While that spot said that Gianforte was a “millionaire from New Jersey,” he’s actually originally from Pennsylvania, though he’s lived in Montana since the 1990s. The first RGA ad ran for $93,000, and it’s unclear how much money is behind this one.
• UT-Gov: Utah’s June 28 GOP primary isn’t too far away, and Dan Jones & Associates takes a look at the race on behalf of UtahPolicy. They give Gov. Gary Herbert a strong 74-19 lead with registered Republicans over Jonathan Johnson, the head of Overstock.com. Because any eligible independent voter can register as a Republican on Election Day and vote in the primary, Dan Jones also asked independents about this contest. However, unaffiliated voters favor Herbert 75-25, so it doesn’t look like they’ll be Johnson’s saving grace. Johnson can probably self-fund enough to get his name out in the next few weeks, but it just doesn’t seem that Utah voters want to part ways with Herbert this year.
• CA-07: Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, whose father pleaded guilty on Tuesday to illegally soliciting contributions for his son’s political campaigns and then reimbursing donors, says he has “give[n] the full amount of improper donations to the United States Treasury.” That makes sense: He can’t exactly refund the donations, since those people weren’t out any money, seeing as his father had already made them whole. (Bera says he has no knowledge of his father’s activities, and prosecutors say they’ve uncovered no evidence to the contrary.) But it’s going to be a painful hit to his campaign account, to the tune of at least a quarter million dollars.
• IL-10: GOP Rep. Bob Dold! has released a new poll from North Star Opinion Research designed to show that Donald Trump hasn’t infected him with political gangrene just yet. The survey (jointly commissioned by the NRCC) finds Dold leading his Democratic opponent, ex-Rep. Brad Schneider, by a 48-41 margin, even as Clinton crushes Trump 52-36. (A DCCC internal from a month ago had these roles reversed, with Schneider up 42-33.)
To put North Star’s results in context, Barack Obama—who, after all, represented the state of Illinois in the Senate—carried the 10th District by a 58-41 spread in 2012. In that same election, Schneider narrowly unseated Dold by just a single point. That means Dold is now arguing that he thinks he’ll do better this year despite the Republican presidential nominee doing worse, all things considered, since Clinton’s performance is on par with Obama’s even though she’s not getting any kind of “favorite daughter” boost. (Clinton was born in Illinois but hasn’t lived there since before most Americans were born.)
In other words, Dold is saying we’ll see a level of ticket-splitting that’s now almost unprecedented in American politics today, so much so that he’ll run 23 points ahead of the top of the ticket. By contrast, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who pulled off one of the most gravity-defying wins in recent years with her 2012 stunner, “only” outstripped Obama by 20.5 points. Dold did beat out Romney by a considerable margin four years ago, but can he really manage that same feat again—and then some?
• MN-08: Republican businessman Stewart Mills is spending $238,000 on his first TV spot for his rematch with Democratic incumbent Rick Nolan. Mills’ ad stars employees at a local Iron Range salvage yard calling for someone new in Congress, and praising the wealthy Mills as a hard worker who’s willing to get his hands dirty.
Mills lost the Nolan 49-47 during last cycle’s GOP wave. Mills himself seems to agree that Nolan starts with the edge, since an April poll from his campaign showed the Democrat up 49-46 even with Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton by an unlikely 43-30 margin. (Obama won this district 52-46, so that would be quite a collapse for Team Blue.) At the end of March, Nolan held a strong $701,000 to $232,000 cash-on-hand edge, though Mills could kick in some of his own money if he wants. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Democratic.
• NC-12: Democratic Rep. Alma Adams is launching the first spot for the June 7 primary for this safely blue Charlotte seat. Adams alludes to her famous hat collection, telling the audience that she’s “worn a lot of different hats” over the years. Adams talks about her background as a teacher and her record in the legislature and in Congress. All the while, Adams is seen with a different hat, and as she talks about fighting Donald Trump, she reaches for a football helmet.
Adams lost her Greensboro base to redistricting, and three Charlotte politicians are challenging her. However, at the end of March, Adams held a $347,000 to $20,000 cash-on-hand edge against ex-state Sen. Malcolm Graham, while state Reps. Tricia Cotham and Carla Cunningham didn’t report having anything available. It’s very possible that in the next month, the only ads voters see for this race will be from Adams.
• NJ-07: Rep. Leonard Lance, a relative moderate, defeated perennial candidate David Larsen by just 54-46 in the 2014 GOP primary, and Larsen has more money at his disposal this time. Lance is going up with a TV spot ahead of the June 7 primary, and he tries to cram as much conservative magic into 30 seconds as possible. The narrator tells the viewer that Lance opposed Obama, opposed the Iran nuclear deal, opposes amnesty, “took on Republicans in Washington who wanted to spend more,” and “has always fought against Obamacare.” It’s one of those unmemorable commercials that throws a ton of messages at the audience and just hopes that something sticks.
• NV-04: Education activist Susie Lee has shared a new poll from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner with Jon Ralston, and it shows a tight race in the Democracy primary for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District. In first place is former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores with 26 percent, while Lee is close behind at 23; state Sen. Ruben Kihuen is a distant third with just 11 percent. Kihuen is the first and only candidate on TV so far (not counting an ad that Bernie Sanders ran ahead of February’s caucuses featuring Flores), but Ralston says that Lee’s extensive mail program has helped boost her name recognition.
And indeed, the picture is quite different from the last poll we saw here, conducted by PPP in January for the PCCC (they’ve also polled for Flores in the past). Back then, Flores had a much wider 29-9 lead on Lee, with Kihuen at 6; those results made intuitive sense, since Flores came into the race much better known than her rivals, thanks to her unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor two years ago.
But Lee has since outspent Flores more than two-to-one and has also spent more than Kihuen. However, those figures date back to March 31. In April, Flores saw an enormous fundraising surge thanks to an email Sanders sent to his list, meaning that she now has a much better shot at staying even with Lee going forward.
• NY-03: North Hempstead Town Board member Anna Kaplan, a Democrat, is up with her first TV spot, and it’s certainly a memorable one. Kaplan describes how, as a 13 year-old Jewish refugee, she escaped the Iranian Revolution and made it to the United States all alone. Kaplan tells the audience that “America gave me a chance. So when Donald Trump says these hateful things, I know how dangerous it can become and how important it is to fight back.” The campaign said the buy would be “very aggressive,” but it didn’t say how much money they were putting behind the spot. Kaplan faces three other credible Democrats in the June 28 primary for this open Long Island swing seat.
• WI-01: A few days ago Sarah Palin, angry that Speaker Paul Ryan has yet to back Donald Trump, endorsed Some Dude Paul Nehlen’s campaign against Ryan in the August GOP primary. It seems very unlikely that Nehlen can topple the powerful speaker and indeed, the GOP pollster Remington Research Group quickly released a poll pouring cold water on his chances. Remington’s May 9-10 survey finds Ryan crushing Nehlen 78-14 with likely primary voters, and gives Ryan a strong 78-15 favorable rating. By contrast, Palin is toxic with a 24-54 rating, and even Trump is underwater at 41-43.
Normally, we’d wonder if Nehlen would release contradictory numbers, but he may not have enough money to even afford a pollster right now. Of course, this is just one poll (and no client was identified) months away from Election Day. Still, even before this release, it seemed hard to believe that this spat had put Ryan in much danger. However, we’ll enjoy watching whatever cat fud there is fly.
• WV-02: Freshman Republican Rep. Alex Mooney was at best a long-shot target for Team Blue this cycle, and after Tuesday‘s Democratic primary, he comes off the big board completely. The DCCC supported Army lawyer Cory Simpson and added him to their “Emerging Races” list in February, but Simpson narrowly lost the nomination to ex-Del. Mark Hunt. Simpson wasn’t an incredible fundraiser, but Hunt has barely hauled in any money, and he had a negative amount in the bank at the end of April.
Mitt Romney won this central West Virginia seat 60-38, and Donald Trump is likely to do very well here in November. Mooney only moved from Maryland to West Virginia in 2013 to run for Congress, and he beat a well-funded Democratic foe by just a 47-44 margin despite the GOP wave. However, Mooney now has incumbency on his side, and it doesn’t look like Hunt will have anything close to the type of resources he’ll need to attack the congressman. As a result, Daily Kos Elections is changing our rating from Likely Republican to Safe Republican.
• NH State Senate: While New Hampshire’s 400-person state House tends to change hands at the drop of a hat these days, the Senate has been more stubbornly Republican. While Obama won the Granite State 52-47, he only took 12 of the 24 Senate seats. The GOP has controlled the chamber since the 2010 wave, but Team Blue may be able to net the three seats it needs to undo Team Red’s 14 to 10 edge.
State Sen. Jeanie Forrester is leaving behind a 53-46 Obama seat to run for governor, and this week, state Sen. David Boutin announced that he would not seek another two-year term. Boutin’s SD-16 backed Romney just 50-49, making it a good Democratic target on paper at least. GOP state Sen. Jerry Little was also recently confirmed as state banking commissioner, and he leaves behind a 51-47 Obama seat; there will not be a special election to replace himbefore November.
• Special Elections: Via Johnny Longtorso:
Massachusetts Senate, Plymouth and Norfolk: Republicans held on to this seat, with Patrick O’Connor defeating Democrat Joan Meschino by a 53-47 margin. At 49.5 Obama-49.3 Romney, this is the second-most Republican Senate district in Massachusetts.
• Portland, OR Mayor: On behalf of Oregon Public Broadcasting, DHM Research takes a look at next week’s non-partisan primary. Unsurprisingly, they find Democratic state Treasurer Ted Wheeler out in front with 33 percent, with Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey taking second with 9; none of the other thirteen candidates take more than 4. Wheeler needs to take a majority if he wants to avert a November general election, and this poll suggests he’ll fall short. Still, Wheeler has a massive financial edge over Bailey, and he’ll likely be the clear favorite no matter what.
• WV Supreme Court: West Virginia voters selected a new state Supreme Court justice on Tuesday alongside their presidential and state primary elections. This race was the first since the new Republican state legislative majority in 2015 switched to non-partisan elections without a runoff and moved the general election date from November to coincide with the May primary. Although incumbent Republican Justice Brent Benjamin sought a second 12-year term, Republican outside groups poured millions into the race to support challenger Beth Walker.Convicted coal kingpin Don Blankenship spent millions to elect Benjamin 12 years ago, but this time many of his affiliates backed Walker, having decided that Benjamin was no longer sufficiently conservative.
Walker easily prevailed with 40 percent while Benjamin came in fourth with just 12 percent.Two Democratic candidates almost evenly split the vote between themselves. Ex-state Supreme Court justice and former five-term state Attorney General Darrell McGraw won 23 percent while attorney and former legislator Bill Wooton took 21 percent. Democrats will maintain their three-to-two majority on the court for now, but this race illustrates just how powerful of an impact campaign spending disparities can have on down-ballot races.
• Polltopia: Ever six months the Centers for Disease Control does a survey of how many people have cell phones, how many have landlines, and how many have both or neither. That’s important to them in terms of how best to warn people about public health crises, but it’s important to us, and more importantly, to pollsters, in terms of how to reach people and ask them questions about their political preferences, and whether the people you’re reaching are a representative sample.
As with every time they’ve done the study, the percentage of cell-only households has gone up and landline users has gone down; the nation is currently 48.3 percent cellphone-only, 7.2 percent landline-only, 41.2 percent both, and 3.1 percent phoneless. This year’s study is aturning point, though, as the first time the CDC has ever found that cell-only plus phoneless exceeds 50 percent of the population, together.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and Stephen Wolf.
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