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GA-13, UT-04: Okay, we’ve had enough of David Scott now, thank you very much. Scott, an ostensibly Democratic congressman from Georgia, was last seen endorsing the incumbent Republican senator from his home state for re-election. Now he’s done himself one better, donating $1,000 to GOP Rep. Mia Love, who faces a difficult rematch with Democrat Doug Owens.
According to Love, Scott gave her the contribution because he thinks it’s “important for us to have people of color on both sides of the aisle,” a retelling that Scott himself confirmed was accurate. (Both Scott and Love are black.) But Love herself doesn’t seem to agree with that rationale: The congresswoman told the Salt Lake Tribune, “We don’t care about the way someone looks or their gender. We just want someone who is going to go in and do the job.” And that doesn’t even address Love’s arch-conservative voting record—or arch-conservative political party—which most certainly hasn’t been good for people of color or other minorities.
It’s not just the damaging displays of “bipartisanship” that make Scott so awful. He’s vocally sided with Republicans to undermine regulations aimed at reining in predatory payday lenders and preventing auto dealers from charging higher interest rates to people of color. And Scott has no excuse for any of this nonsense: He sits in a safely blue district that gave 69 percent of its vote to Barack Obama. So if there’s a Democrat in the Atlanta area with a partisan backbone and an interest in moving up in the ranks, drop us a line after November. We’re always up for a good primary challenge to a bad Democrat.
● IA-Sen: It’s a little hard to figure how Chuck Grassley feels about chances at winning a seventh term. On the one hand, Iowa’s veteran Republican senator holds a solid 49-41 lead in the HuffPo polling average on his challenger, Democrat Patty Judge, and has clocked in above the 50 percent mark in five of the 10 polls publicly released to date. On the other hand, Grassley’s never won re-election with less than 64 percent of the vote, so his current standing represents a remarkable career low.
But here’s one tell that suggests Grassley isn’t expecting his usual walk-over: He’s airing a negative ad about his opponent, something he’s almost never done before. In the spot, a narrator recounts how the state budget was “in shambles” in 2009 (thanks, of course, to the Great Recession, which goes unmentioned). But, she goes on, while the “governor, auditor, and secretary of agriculture voluntarily cut their pay 10 percent,” Judge “refused to cut her $103,000 salary by even a penny.” The problem for Judge is that this is in fact true. At the time, Judge defended the decision by saying her salary was still lower than that of other state officials even after theirs were cut. That may well have been so, but that’s a hard thing to explain to voters who earn a lot less than six figures—especially if they got laid off during that time.
And that’s why Judge isn’t challenging Grassley’s argument. Instead, she issued a press release saying that Grassley had accepted a pay raise in 2009 and continued to draw a paycheck during the government shutdown he supported in 2013. This is good pushback, but a statement emailed to reporters won’t be enough. Judge will need to find a way to neutralize Grassley and put him on the defensive, and that’s going to mean running ads of her own. Unfortunately, though, she has just $228,000 in the bank compared to the incumbent’s enormous $5.9 million war chest. But if Grassley’s feeling like he needs to go on the offensive, then perhaps this race will become competitive enough for outside groups to come to Judge’s aid and help balance out this disparity.
● LA-Sen: On behalf of the conservative blog The Hayride, GOP pollsterRemington Research gives us our first survey of the Louisiana Senate race in almost three months. Note that all the candidates will be on one ballot in November; if no one takes a majority of the vote the top two contenders, regardless of party, will advance to a December runoff.
- State Treasurer John Kennedy (R): 27
- Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D): 16
- Rep. Charles Boustany (R): 13
- Attorney Caroline Fayard (D): 12
- Rep. John Fleming (R): 6
- Ex-Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke (R): 6
- 2014 Senate candidate Rob Maness (R): 4
Polls have consistently found Kennedy, who was Team Red’s 2008 nominee, grabbing first place without much trouble, and a much-tighter battle for the second runoff spot. Boustany launched his ad campaign about a week before this poll was taken, and no one else has joined him on the airwaves yet. And thankfully, David Duke does not appear to have much support left—though anything greater than zero is too much. Remington also asked respondents how they would vote in a hypothetical runoff between Kennedy and Campbell, and the GOP comes out on top 51-27.
● NC-Sen: For most of the cycle, North Carolina’s Senate race attracted very little outside spending, even as polls showed an unexpectedly close contest between Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Democrat Deborah Ross. That finally started to change a few weeks ago, when the conservative group One Nation began airing $2.5 million worth of positive ads for Burr. And on Thursday, things kicked up another couple of notches with Roll Call‘s report that the Senate Leadership Fund, which is close to Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, had reserved $8.1 million in ads. SLF’s campaign will begin Sept. 13 and last through the election.
However, Democratic groups still haven’t aired any ads or booked any airtime here yet. In the past, we worried that national Democrats simply didn’t believe that Ross could win and had decided not to spend here. However, it’s very possible that Team Blue just decided that, as long as the GOP also wasn’t advertising, they’d wait until closer to Election Day to save their resources.
Well, now the GOP has dramatically upped the ante in the Tar Heel State, and Democrats can’t afford to let Burr and his allies control the airwaves if they want to win here. We’ve long pushed for national Democrats to make this race a priority, and we’ll soon find out whether they’re interested in doing so.
- AZ-Sen: PPP (D): John McCain (R-inc): 43, Ann Kirkpatrick (D): 43 (46-43 Trump) (June: 42-40 McCain)
- MO-Sen: PPP (D): Roy Blunt (R-inc): 47, Jason Kander (D): 43 (47-41 Trump) (July: 41-38 Blunt)
- NC-Sen: PPP (D): Richard Burr (R-inc): 46, Deborah Ross (D): 43 (45-44 Clinton) (August: 41-37 Burr)
- NH-Sen: PPP (D): Maggie Hassan (D): 47, Kelly Ayotte (R-inc): 45 (46-40 Clinton) (June: 44-42 Hassan)
- OH-Sen: PPP (D): Rob Portman (R-inc): 48, Ted Strickland (D): 39 (46-42 Clinton) (July: 43-38 Portman)
- PA-Sen: Franklin & Marshall: Katie McGinty (D): 43, Pat Toomey (R-inc): 38 (47-40 Clinton) (August: 39-38 McGinty)
- PA-Sen: PPP (D): Katie McGinty (D): 46, Pat Toomey (R-inc): 40 (48-43 Clinton) (July: 42-41 Toomey)
- WI-Sen: Global Strategy Group (D): Russ Feingold (D): 55, Ron Johnson (R-inc): 37 (47-35 Clinton) (July: 52-41 Feingold)
- WI-Sen: PPP (D): Russ Feingold (D): 49, Ron Johnson (R-inc): 42 (48-41 Clinton) (June: 50-37 Feingold)
With the exception of the Franklin & Marshall survey, all of these polls were commissioned by liberal groups. The Global Strategy Group poll of Wisconsin was conducted for the Environmental Defense Fund and the League of Conservation Voters, while the PPP polls were all paid for by the National Employment Law Project Action Fund describes itself as “a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers.” Most of their questions were about raising the minimum wage, though the presidential and Senate horserace questions were asked first.
This is only the second Arizona Senate poll we’ve seen since June, and it’s much better for Team Blue than a recent CNN/ORC survey that gave John McCain a 52-39 lead. The bad news for Democrats is that the poll shows that, while only 3 percent of Clinton voters are undecided about their Senate choice, 21 percent of Trump voters haven’t made up their minds. McCain only took 52 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary against a weak field of opponents, good confirmation that a significant number of Arizona Republicans hate him.
However, if most of them end of backing McCain in November, even if only reluctantly, he’ll gain some ground. And it appears that only McCain and Kirkpatrick will be on the general election ballot, so McCain-hating conservatives don’t have a third-party candidate to cast a protest vote for, though of course they could choose to skip this race. (It seems unlikely that there are many far-right voters who will go so far as voting for a Democratto stick it to John McCain.) The good news for Kirkpatrick is that Hillary Clinton just started advertising in the state. Even if Clinton falls short, the better she does, the fewer crossover voters Kirkpatrick will need.
Meanwhile, most Wisconsin Senate polls have shown Russ Feingold far ahead of GOP Sen. Ron Johnson. However, while a recent Monmouth poll showed him up 54-41, a Marquette survey taken around the same time gave him just a 48-45 edge. But both these new polls show Feingold doing well, including a massive 18-point lead in GSG’s survey. (Note: The trendlines from GSG’s July poll weren’t released until now.)
● NH-Gov: Both parties’ Sept. 13 primaries have been pretty low-key affairs, but the GOP contest is now getting interesting. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas is up with a spot portraying Executive Councilor Chris Sununu as a closet liberal. The narrator argues that Sununu supported Common Core, “sided with Hillary Clinton,” “voted to fund Planned Parenthood with our tax dollars,” and defended a tax increase proposed Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. The Planned Parenthood charge in particular may be Gatsas’ most effective weapon with conservative Republican voters. In late June, Sununu cast the deciding vote in favor of restoring half a million in state funding to the organization; the previous year, Sununu was the deciding vote to block the money.
The ads are also beginning on the Democratic side, and they’re even on the same topic. Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern’s spot features several women talking about how devastating for women’s health it was when the Executive Council took that vote to defund Planned Parenthood, and praising Van Ostern for getting it restored.
● CA-10: A few days ago, the DCCC released a poll showing Republican Rep. Jeff Denham with just a 46-43 edge over Democrat Michael Eggman; a month earlier, Eggman dropped a poll giving Denham a 47-41 edge. The GOP is now out with their own survey arguing that there’s absolutely nothing to see here: Public Opinion Strategies, on behalf of Denham and the NRCC, gives the incumbent a giant 57-35 lead, and has Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tied 40-40 in a Modesto seat that Obama carried 51-47.
Eggman challenged Denham during the 2014 GOP wave and lost 56-44, and it seems very unlikely that he’ll do worse with presidential turnout. Still, neither party appears to have publicly announced any fall ad reservations in this district. If Democrats are serious about beating Denham, the best way to prove it is to run commercials against him.
● IL-10: Add the Illinois Education Association to the list of organizations that don’t understand how politics works. On Thursday, the 130,000-member teachers union endorsed GOP Rep. Bob Dold!, who, if he’s re-elected, will vote to elect Paul Ryan as speaker of the House. Ryan’s party opposes everything that organized labor stands for and has spent the better part of a century trying to undermine it, so therefore no union should support any Republican running for Congress. This should not be very hard to understand, but apparently, it is.
Making this even more absurd, Dold’s Democratic opponent, ex-Rep. Brad Schneider, has been endorsed by many other unions, including the Illinois AFL-CIO and, believe it or not, the Illinois Federation of Teachers. Fortunately, the IEA’s track record is as poor as its political sense: They backed Dold in 2012 when he first lost to Schneider, then supported Schneider in 2014 when he lost his rematch against Dold. With any luck, they’ll be a contrary indicator once again.
● KY-01: GOP Rep. Ed Whitfield decided not to seek re-election this cycle, and he’s now announced that he will resign on Sept. 6. Gov. Matt Bevin has announced that a special election for the final months of Whitfield’s term will be held concurrently with the regularly scheduled Nov. 8 general election. James Comer easily won the GOP nod for this safely red seat back in May, and he should have little trouble winning the special.
● MN-08: In the sort of setback that both parties are dealt multiple times every election cycle, a TV station in the Twin Cities has yanked an attack ad put out by the House Majority PAC, a major pro-Democratic group. The spot hits Republican Stewart Mills, who is the wealthy scion of a large regional retail chain, who is running against Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. Mills is shown giving a speech three years ago in which he said, “Folks saying that … the wealthy are not paying their fair share … is personally offensive.” The NRCC claimed that this footage had been unfairly stitched together, but here’s the full passage:
“What happened in the last round of elections, where you had folks saying that the wealthy—the wealthy—are not paying their fair share, that there’s all these loopholes and they don’t pay any taxes and we have to make them pay more. Well, you know what, I’m gonna speak for myself, and then I’m going to allude to a few others here.
“You know what? We’ve paid, we’ve paid all of our taxes. We re-invest the money we make into our business. We provide jobs for people. We provide health insurance for people. We are part of this community, and then beyond that, we support community and civic endeavors. We donate to charity. We—we help with events. We do a lot of things for this community. And to be singled out as a deadbeat is personally offensive.”
There’s just no question that HMP’s edits were faithful to exactly what Mills was saying: that he resents being “singled out as a deadbeat” by those who say that wealthy people like “are not paying their fair share.” (Poor baby! It’s hard being worth $218 million!) Fortunately, most of the TV stations airing this ad have ignored the NRCC’s complaints. Only one, WUCW, complied, and it’s no surprise that it’s part of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a network that’s notorious for its undisguised rightward slant.
But it’s worth taking a moment to explain why third-party ads are vulnerable to getting taken down like this. Under federal law, broadcasters cannot refuse to air ads from candidates as long as they’re paid for, so because they have no choice, stations have successfully argued that they should not be liable as publishers if they’re ever sued for defamation. But they’re under no similar obligation to run ads from outside groups, which means that in those cases, they are potentially liable for defamation.
Knowing this, campaigns try to hunt down inaccuracies (real or perceived) in third-party ads and demand that broadcasters stop airing them, with the stated or unstated threat that if they fail to comply, they could find themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Whether or not such suits would ever succeed, TV and radio stations have to think hard every time as to whether they want to incur legal costs should a campaign ever follow through. WUCW decided to take the easy (or just pro-Republican) way out.
But not all broadcasters immediately roll over every time they get a lawyer letter. No one likes being bullied, but more to the point, these companies want the ad revenue. That’s why they typically have their own legal departments review grievances like these to assess their merit. If they wind up disagreeing with the complainants, then they tell them to get lost and keep running the ad in question, which as we noted above is what several stations have done here.
● NY-03: Republican state Sen. Jack Martins sounded pretty defeatedwhen a federal judge rejected his effort to delay the November general election until Dec. 6 earlier this week, but now he has gone and filed an appeal after all. Martins wants the election moved because a different federal judge previously ordered that a GOP primary be held on Oct. 6after finding that Some Dude Philip Pidot had been improperly kicked off the ballot before the regularly scheduled June primary.
● NRCC: On Wednesday, the NRCC added six candidates to their Young Guns program for top-tier House nominees. Like the DCCC’s Red to Blue program, Young Guns is meant to signal to donors (and allied outside groups) that these are the contenders worth aiding:
- AZ-01: Paul Babeu
- FL-18: Brian Mast
- MI-01: Jack Bergman
- MN-02: Jason Lewis
- NY-22: Claudia Tenney
- WI-08: Mike Gallagher
Paul Babeu and Brian Mast only won their primaries on Tuesday and they were already included in the NRCC’s On the Radar list, the lowest tier of the Young Guns program, so it’s no surprise to see them get bumped up. Mike Gallagher took the GOP nod almost a month ago, but his inclusion is also not a surprise.
The other three are a bit more notable. While the NRCC put both of Jack Bergman’s GOP rivals “On the Radar,” it snubbed Bergman, a retired Marine lieutenant general. The Michigan primary was Aug. 2, which means Team Red waited an entire month before giving Bergman a seat at the cool kids table. Bergman loaned his campaign $270,000 during the primary but raised very little from donors, so he’s a candidate who could absolutely use some fundraising help. Bergman faces ex-state Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson, who has been one of his party’s stronger fundraisers. Michigan’s 1st backed Romney 54-45, but Democrats often do well downballot here.
Jason Lewis also never got the NRCC’s attention until now, though neither did any of his vanquished foes in Minnesota’s Aug. 9 primary. Lewis, a former conservative radio host, has an ugly history of racist and sexist comments, and he’s not a good fit for his swingy Twin Cities seat at all. Still, the NRCC doesn’t have any choice but to back Lewis if they want any chance of holding this district. Lewis had just $107,000 on-hand at the end of July, and he’s going to need a lot of national party assistance if he wants to compete with Democrat Angie Craig, who had $1.8 million in the bank.
Claudia Tenney is another candidate the NRCC didn’t want anything to do with, and as with Bergman, they also included both of her now-defeated primary opponents in their On the Radar category while ignoring her. In fact, the NRCC unveiled the first assortment of its top-shelf Young Guns candidates on June 29, one day after Tenney won her primary, making her exclusion all the more noticeable.
Tenney, an ultra-conservative assemblywoman, raised very little money during her primary, and she had less than $6,000 in the bank at the end of June. (No, we didn’t leave out a zero.) In other words, Tenney had better hope that the NRCC is really serious about introducing her to donors and isn’t just adding her name to the list as a token gesture. New York’s 22nd District only narrowly backed Romney, and Team Blue has a credible candidate in Kim Myers.
● NH-Sen: The Senate Leadership Fund announced back in June that they would spend a massive $15.8 million this cycle to help Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and they’re out with their first commercial now. The spot, which the group is running through an entity called “Granite State Solutions,” accuses Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan of supporting higher taxes and more spending. On the other side, the NEA is spending $1.2 million on an ad arguing that Ayotte’s policies have raised student loan debt. Senate Majority PAC recently started airing the exact same spot(whose narrator sounds uncannily like Carolyn McCormick, the actress who played Dr. Olivet on “Law & Order”) as part of their overall $7.5 million ad campaign for this race.
● WI-Sen: Let America Work, a super PAC backing GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, argues that Democrat Russ Feingold voted to make America weaker during his previous stint in the Senate. The spot is part of a new$500,000 buy.
● FL-26: In his first ad, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo talks about being bipartisan.
● ME-02: House Majority PAC argues that Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin is a Wall Street guy who doesn’t fit in with rural Maine. To make their case, they show a man in a suit awkwardly trying to climb into a kayak and, upon finally succeeding, incompetently paddling. The spot is part of a $700,000 buy that began Aug. 12 and will last until Sept. 15; the group previously reserved an additional $900,000 for the fall.
● TX-23: Republican Rep. Will Hurd talks about his military background and emphasizes national security and veterans. Democrat Pete Gallego’s first ad talks about his local roots and calls for working across the aisle.
● UT-04: Both candidates are up with their first ads. GOP Rep. Mia Lovefeatures locals praising her record. Democrat Doug Owens promotes his local roots and bemoans Washington politicians.
● WI-08: Democrat Tom Nelson argues that Republican Mike Gallagher wants to cut Social Security. The spot features a clip of Gallagher proposing “a flat universal payment to everyone at the poverty line,” which the narrator says is a plan to “reduce all Social Security benefits to the poverty line.”