OH-Sen: The Democratic exodus from Ohio continues. Last week, when both the DSCC and the Senate Majority PAC cancelled upwards of $2 million in fall TV ad reservations in the Buckeye State, we noted that they still had many millions left. Now they have fewer still. On Friday afternoon, the Washington Post reported that the DSCC was cancelling an additional $1.5 million booked on Democrat Ted Strickland’s behalf, over and above the $500,000 it had dropped a week earlier.
Then on Tuesday, the Senate Majority PAC followed suit, confirming that ithad cancelled $3 million worth of September ads; last week, the group withdrew $1.7 million from the race. SMP said that it still has time reserved from Oct. 11 through Election Day, but that could of course change.
Back in the spring, the DSCC and SMP announced a combined $19.5 million in Ohio reservations; by our back-of-the-envelope math, they’ve since cancelled $6.7 million, leaving them with $12.8 million. Perhaps the most interesting question now is where this money—plus another $5 million no longer needed in Colorado (see our CO-Sen item below)—will head instead. If Democrats are looking to bring additional races online, the most promising options would be in North Carolina, Arizona, and Missouri. If instead they want to try shoring up existing tossups, then they’d look to Pennsylvania, Florida, New Hampshire, or Nevada.
Part of this decision-making process will, of course, involve seeing what Republicans do with the resources they’ve freed up from Ohio, as GOP groups have made seven-figure cancellations of their own here. But we’ll be watching carefully to see what happens next.
• CO-Sen: There are two kinds of strategic redeployments in the political world: the type that show you’re losing, and the type that show you’re winning. For Democrats, their ad reductions in Ohio (see our OH-Sen item) represent a retreat, but in Colorado, the DSCC’s newly announced cancellation of $5 million worth of TV time comes because Republicans fortunes there have dwindled almost to nothing. Indeed, the DSCC was the only major outside group we’re aware of that had ever even made any bookings, so the fact that they’re moving on shows they feel very good about Sen. Michael Bennet’s chances.
D.C. Republicans, meanwhile, have shown no love for their candidate. El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn may have excited intense conservative fervor with his red-meat speeches to friendly audiences, but that hasn’t translated into cold, hard cash (or even warm, soft cash): At the end of June, he had just $119,000 in the bank—a pitiful sum even for a House candidate—while Bennet, the man he’s trying to unseat, had a hefty $6.1 million saved up.
And Bennet’s used his financial advantage to hit the airwaves early, which has helped him sustain a strong and consistent lead in the polls—51-38 according to the HuffPo average. Bennet has also likely been aided by Hillary Clinton’s solid edge in his home state, so solid that Clinton and her allies have stopped advertising in Colorado altogether. With all of the defense the GOP is playing, we’d be very surprised to see them make a late effort to drag the Centennial State back on to the map.
• MO-Sen: Biden Alert! The VPOTUS is headed to St. Louis this Friday to headline a fundraiser for Democrat Jason Kander, who is challenging GOP Sen. Roy Blunt. Biden had previously sent out a fundraising email on Kander’s behalf.
• Polls: Here’s today’s roundup of Senate polls:
• FL-Sen: Civis Analytics (D): Patrick Murphy (D): 45, Marco Rubio (R-inc): 44 (conducted for Senate Majority PAC).
• IA-Sen: Emerson College Polling Society: Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 51, Patty Judge (D): 40 (44-39 Trump).
• NC-Sen: YouGov: Deborah Ross (D): 41, Richard Burr (R): 40 (46-42 Clinton).
• NH-Sen: UNH: Maggie Hassan (D): 44, Kelly Ayotte (R-inc): 42 (45-36 Clinton).
• PA-Sen: YouGov: Katie McGinty (D): 39, Pat Toomey (R-inc): 39 (45-37 Clinton).
YouGov’s North Carolina poll is now the third in the last month to show Ross ahead, though there are reasons not to like it. Chief among them is the fact that the Senate horserace was not asked until the survey’s 22nd question, after a battery of other questions, including one about “Hillary Clinton’s explanations of her email server.” Pollsters should always ask about election matchups first and then issues second, because you never know how raising certain topics might “prime” respondents one way or another. (YouGov did the same thing in their Pennsylvania poll, regrettably.)
Note also that the Civis poll was conducted two weeks before Florida’s Aug. 30 primary. Very unusually for a statewide poll of a swing state, Civis did not provide numbers for the presidential race in its memo and did not respond to a request for that data.
• MO-Gov: In a further demonstration of his unusual ability to pick up endorsements that cut against type, Democratic state Attorney General Chris Koster just earned the support of the National Rifle Association. Previously, Koster won the endorsement of the Missouri Farm Bureau, which had never sided with a Democrat in a gubernatorial race but chose Koster over former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, his Republican opponent.
Koster also has a wide edge on Greitens in fundraising: As of Aug. 27, Koster had $9.4 million in his campaign account versus just $3.2 million for his opponent, though that’s partly due to the fact that Greitens just won an expensive four-way primary last month. And it’s important to bear in mind that these figures can change in an instant, because Missouri law places no caps whatsoever on campaign contributions. Indeed, the RGA sent $3.5 million directly to Greitens’ coffers after he wrapped up the nomination, and they can easily send much more.
• MT-Gov: In the most recent fundraising period, covering July 28 through Aug. 27, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock raised $271,000 and finished with $1.3 million in the bank. His wealthy Republican opponent, businessman Greg Gianforte, only raised about $177,000 from outside sources but threw in another $660,000 in his own money. He now has $271,000 on hand, but he can write himself another check at any time. Both campaigns are, as you’d expect, spending heavily on advertising: $421,000 for the incumbent and $483,000 for his challenger. Amazingly, not a single public poll of this race has surfaced all cycle long, and we’re now past Labor Day.
• WV-Gov: West Virginia should very well wind up as one of Donald Trump’s best states—perhaps his very best given its demographics: very white, with lower levels of income and education. Yet in spite of this, Democrat Jim Justice, a billionaire who made his fortune in the coal industry, continues to lead in every poll, including a new independent survey from Repass Research that gives him a large 46-32 lead on Republican Bill Cole, with Charlotte Pritt of the left-leaning Mountain Party taking 8 and Libertarian David Moran at 5.
The same sample gave Trump a wide 49-31 advantage over Hillary Clinton, but that might actually understate Trump’s standing, since Mitt Romney carried the state by 27 points. (One other flag: This survey was in the field for an incredibly long time, from Aug. 9 through 28.) If in fact this poll is too optimistic for Democrats, then Justice’s lead is probably smaller than it looks.
But Cole’s response won’t cheer his fellow Republicans. Said a spokesperson, “There were three reputable polls conducted during the same time period with a larger sample size and better methodology that show the race for governor between around 4 points.” It’s bad enough to have to admit that you’re trailing, but if there really are polls showing this a single-digit race, then Cole’s campaign ought to share them, because the only new publicly released poll since May was a Justice internal that had him up 47-37 last month.
• AZ-05: Late-counted ballots brought a huge surprise in the GOP primary for this safely red Mesa seat. With all the votes in, state Senate President Andy Biggs now leads former GoDaddy attorney Christine Jones by ninevotes. The morning after the Aug. 30 primary, it was Jones who held an 876-vote edge. Under Arizona law, there will be an automatic recount after the state canvasses the results on Sept. 12. Jones’ campaign is arguing that there were “significant statistical anomalies,” and it’s very possible that the recount won’t bring an end to this contest.
• DE-AL: The three-way Sept. 13 primary for this safely blue seat is almost here. From July 1 to Aug. 24, ex-state Labor Secretary Lisa Blunt Rochester spent $385,000, more than either of her two rivals. Rochester also loaned herself an additional $225,000 for the final weeks of the contest. State Sen. Bryan Townsend spent $185,000, and former gubernatorial aide Sean Barney dropped $143,000 during this period, though VoteVets has spent $90,000 on Barney’s behalf so far.
• NH-01: The Sept. 13 GOP primary for New Hampshire’s swingy 1st Congressional District is almost here, and incumbent Frank Guinta’s fate is still very up in the air. A year ago, the FEC ruled that Guinta had illegally accepted a $355,000 campaign donation from his parents in 2010. Prominent New Hampshire Republicans like Sen. Kelly Ayotte publicly called for Guinta to resign, a call he completely disregarded when he decided to seek re-election.
Businessman Rich Ashooh, who narrowly lost to Guinta in the 2010 primary, stepped up to challenge the congressman, but surprisingly, Guinta’s intra-party detractors don’t seem to be rallying behind him. Even though the FEC fine wiped out much of Guinta’s warchest, Ashooh only outspent him $76,000 to $72,000 from July 1 to Aug. 24. Almost all of this district is located in the expensive Boston media market, so neither of those sums will buy too many ads. And while several top GOP operativesformed a super PAC to help Ashooh back in April, there doesn’t appear to have been any outside spending for either side over the last few months. Ayotte also has not endorsed Ashooh. Guinta still may not be in great shape, but Ashooh may just be too weak to take advantage of his problems.
Whoever emerges with the GOP nod next week will face ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in November. Shea-Porter had a modest $216,000 on-hand at the end of August; however, the Democrat spent an additional $200,000 on a fall TV reservation. Obama carried this seat 50-49.
• NJ-05: On behalf of the DCCC, GBA is out with a survey giving Republican Rep. Scott Garrett a 46-44 edge over Democrat Josh Gottheimer, with Libertarian Claudio Belusic taking 7. One month ago, a DCCC survey from their in-house polling operation found Garrett up by a similar 44-42 margin. Back in June, Garrett said he had polling that showed him up by “double digits,” but he refused to share any further details with Politico, and Team Red has yet to release any numbers here. Romney carried this North Jersey seat 51-48, and this new GBA poll has Hillary Clinton taking it 43-40. This affluent and well-educated suburban district isn’t exactly Trump territory, so the presidential numbers are very plausible.
• NY-22: National Republicans were dismayed when Claudia Tenney, an ultra-conservative assemblywoman and a very weak fundraiser, took the GOP nod for this competitive Utica-area seat in late June. However, while the DCCC is more excited about their nominee, Broome County Legislator Kim Myers, they’re still signaling that this contest is far from over. The D-Trip is out with an Anzalone-Liszt-Grove poll showing Myers and Tenneydeadlocked 35-35, with wealthy independent Martin Babinec grabbing a hefty 21 percent.
Babinec has spent heavily on ads already, and it’s clearly having an impact. Babinec has said that if he wins, he’ll caucus with the GOP. However, he doesn’t seem to be hurting Tenney disproportionately, at least not yet. The poll’s memo says that, “In a two-way vote where Babinec and undecided voters are asked to support either Myers or Tenney, the vote continues to be tied, with each candidate claiming 41” percent. Babinec’s commercials have mostly portrayed him as bland, but non-ideological, problem-solver, so it makes sense if he’s taking a roughly equal number of Democrats and Republicans right now.
Presidential numbers were not included in the poll. While Romney only narrowly won this district, this seat is much whiter and more rural than the nation as a whole, and it also has a lower proportion of college graduates and a smaller median income. While Donald Trump is toxic in plenty of Republican-held seats, this is one area where he may have some room to outperform Romney.
• AZ-Sen: Republican incumbent John McCain accuses Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick of being a partisan Democrat. Politico reports that the NRSC is paying for some of the commercial and has put six figures behind it.
• FL-Sen: American Future Fund has launched a $1.9 million ad campaignaccusing Democrat Patrick Murphy of lying about his background and his resume. The narrator makes some vague claims about Murphy having lied “about owning a small business” and making “outright false” claims about his work as a CPA. As we’ve noted in the past, these lines of attack are from a June CBS4 News report that was subsequently edited; however, don’t expect this to be the last time they show up in a GOP ad.
• IL-Sen: Democrat Tammy Duckworth argues that GOP Sen. Mark Kirk wants to help companies that are investing in other countries, while she wants to give tax cuts and incentives to businesses that stay in the United States.
• IN-Sen: Republican Todd Young emphasizes his time in the Marines.
• MO-Sen: Republican Sen. Roy Blunt portrays Democrat Jason Kander as a crazy liberal.
• NC-Sen: Republican Sen. Richard Burr features the parents of two children on the autism spectrum praising him for his work helping families like theirs.
• NH-Sen: The DSCC accuses Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of helping big oil.
• NV-Sen: Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto once again emphasizes her work as state attorney general fighting sex trafficking. The League of Conservation Voters launches an $860,000 ad campaign arguing that Republican Joe Heck is jeopardizing Nevada’s clean energy jobs to help big oil.
• OH-Sen: Republican Sen. Rob Portman‘s spot stars professional golfer Jack Nicklaus praising the senator. American Unity PAC spends $300,000arguing Democrat Ted Strickland wants to give billions to Iran “without concessions for human rights violations.”
• PA-Sen: Democrat Katie McGinty pushes back on the GOP’s attempts to portray her as weak on crime; wisely, she does not repeat the GOP charges against her. The DSCC continues to argue that Republican Sen. Pat Toomey wants to risk Social Security on the stock market. Toomeysays that he looks out for the middle class while McGinty wants higher taxes on everyone and “citizenship for illegal immigrants, making them eligible for welfare.”
• WI-Sen: Republican Sen. Ron Johnson says that he’s the only career manufacturer in a Senate that’s largely populated with lawyers and career politicians.
• MO-Gov: Interestingly, Democrat Chris Koster went up with a commercial on gun violence around the same time that he earned the NRA’s endorsement. The spot features people holding up pictures of their loved ones and saying a number, before Koster tells the audience that “[g]un violence is killing our citizens and our city.” Koster doesn’t talk about background checks, though: Instead, he calls for giving police better tools, and tougher bail requirements and longer prison sentences “for felons caught with guns.” Republican Eric Greitens calls for creating jobs.
• MT-Gov: Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock emphasizes his work helping local businesses. Republican Greg Gianforte features a former employee praising him for bringing jobs to small communities.
• NC-Gov: Democrat Roy Cooper argues that Republican Gov. Pat McCrory misled the public about the dangers of coal ash. McCrory hits back and argues that Cooper is the one who made it tougher to protect the public from coal ash.
• OR-Gov: Republican Bud Pierce says that Democratic Gov. Kate Brown wants to push higher taxes on Oregon.
• VT-Gov: The RGA features clips of Republican Phil Scott talking about working together to solve the state’s problems. According to new campaign finance filings, Stronger Vermont, the RGA’s front-group, spent $157,000 on TV ads between Aug. 13 and 29. But these filings don’t cover expenditures since then, so the total buy may be higher
• AZ-01: Along with NV-03 (see below), this swing seat is the site of theDCCC’s first general election ads of the cycle. The commercial features news reports of the abuse that happened under Republican Paul Babeu’s watch at the Massachusetts boarding school he ran. The spot also features a clip of a home video where Babeu proclaimed the students were there “because they’re hopeless.” The D-Trip is putting at least $155,000 behind the ad.
• CA-24: Republican Justin Fareed argues that while Democrat Salud Carbajal offers the same stale ideas that are already in Congress, Fareed offers fresh proposals. Fareed never bothers to say what his ideas are, nor does he ride a horse in this commercial.
• FL-26: Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is out with two new spots (hereand here). In his first, he talks about protecting Florida’s environment. In his Spanish ad, his parents talk about how they left Cuba for the United States.
• IA-03: In his first general election ad, Democrat Jim Mowrer emphasizes his military record.
• IL-12: In his first ad of the cycle, Republican Rep. Mike Bost talks about reigning in spending and the national debt.
• LA-03: Greg Ellison, one of the many Republicans competing in the November jungle primary for this safely red seat, talks about his military and business background.
• ME-02: The NRCC links Democrat Emily Cain to Hillary Clinton. Obama carried this rural seat 53-44, but the GOP is evidently betting that Donald Trump will do well here.
• MN-08: Republican Stewart Mills almost completely reuses a 2014 spot. Once again, his wife Heather talks about how Mills raises money for victims of domestic violence. Mills has a much shorter haircut now than he did during his last campaign, and the b-roll shots and pictures of Mills have been changed to reflect it, but otherwise, it’s the same footage.
• MT-AL: Democrat Denise Juneau talks about her humble origins and work on state education.
• NE-02: In his first general election ad, Republican Don Bacon calls for term limits and banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists.
• NJ-05: House Majority PAC does not pull any punches with their newest spot against Republican Rep. Scott Garrett. The narrator argues that, while Garrett’s views “would be perfect for rural Alabama,” he doesn’t fit in with New Jersey. The commercial says that Garrett voted against banning Confederate flags at military cemeteries, and notes that he called for Republicans not to back gay candidates. To hammer the point home, the Southern anthem “Dixie” plays as background music throughout. The ad is part of a $162,000 buy.
• NV-03: The DCCC goes after Republican Danny Tarkanian’s past business failures and refusal to repay a $17 million judgment for adisastrous redevelopment project. The D-trip is putting at least $46,000behind the commercial.
• NV-04: The NRCC is up with a commercial to help Rep. Cresent Hardy, one of the most vulnerable members of the GOP caucus. The narrator argues that Democrat Ruben Kihuen is an ambitious politician who helped pass a massive tax hike. That tax increase was pushed by RepublicanGov. Brian Sandoval, and you’ll just be shocked to know that the ad doesn’t mention that
• NY-01: Democrat Anna Throne-Holst features a classroom full of students practicing a drill for a school shooting, as she hits Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin for making it tougher to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
• NY-19: In her first general election ad, Democrat Zephyr Teachout calls for supporting local jobs and local farming.
• NY-21: Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik talks about her record helping wounded veterans.
• NY-22: House Majority PAC is out with the first commercial in what they say is a $1.1 million buy. They argue that Republican Claudia Tenney is a career politician with no real accomplishments and plenty of missed votes.
• VA-10: Democrat LuAnn Bennett talks about the pay gap between men and women, before the narrator accuses Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock of voting against equal pay.
• WI-08: Republican Mike Gallagher