WV-Gov: Polling has been scarce in the West Virginia gubernatorial race, but the few surveys we’ve seen have given Democratic coal billionaire Jim Justice a wide lead over Republican Bill Cole, the president of the state Senate. Cole himself has barely done anything to counter the impression that he’s far behind, but his allies at the West Virginia Republican Party are finally releasing some better numbers for him. The survey from Just Win Strategies still shows Justice up, but by just 44-42. Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton 57-30, which matches Mitt Romney’s margin from 2012.
It’s not a great sign for Cole that the best poll any conservatives could release on his behalf still shows him losing. However, it sounds like national Republicans need to be convinced that this contest is worth investing in. The Charleston Gazette-Mail‘s Phil Kabler writes that, while the Republican Governors Association spent about $1.1 million on ads from April to late May, they’ve almost completely gone dark since then. The RGA did run a commercial against Justice last month, but Kabler reports that they put just $12,000 behind it, and they haven’t spent anything since then. Justice is the wealthiest man in West Virginia, so he can more than get by without any help from national Democrats.
• IL-Sen: In the latest twist in a very dull saga that just won’t end, two women who used to work under Democrat Tammy Duckworth at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and are still embroiled in a lawsuit against her are now starring in an ad for GOP Sen. Mark Kirk. The women, who are described by the narrator as “whistleblowers,” claim that Duckworth threatened their jobs if they didn’t keep silent about alleged abuse of veterans, with one adding that Duckworth “was trying to protect Gov. Rod Blagojevich,” who of course was impeached for corruption in 2009.
What’s so strange is that these two women had apparently settled their long-running suit with Duckworth earlier this summer for just $26,000, but later they attempted to back out of the deal. The state attorney general’s office, which is defending the matter, has insisted that the settlement was final and has asked the judge hearing the case to enforce it, but so far, no action has been taken. Will this finally wrap up before the election? Who knows.
• FL-Sen: Siena: Marco Rubio (R-inc) 48, Patrick Murphy (D) 42 (41-40 Clinton)
• GA-Sen: Monmouth: Johnny Isakson (R-inc) 50, Jim Barksdale (D) 34 (45-42 Trump)
• PA-Sen: Muhlenberg: Katie McGinty (D) 43, Pat Toomey (R-inc) 38 (40-32 Clinton)
• AZ-05: On Friday, ex-GoDaddy executive Christine Jones conceded to state Senate President Andy Biggs in the Aug. 30 GOP primary for this safely red Mesa seat. Jones’ announcement came shortly after the recount concluded and left Biggs with a 27-vote lead.
Biggs’ win, narrow as it was, is a victory for anti-establishment Republicans. Biggs had the support of retiring Rep. Matt Salmon, afounding member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. The powerful anti-tax group the Club for Growth, which frequently comes into conflict with the House GOP leadership, also aired ads for Biggs and against Jones. However, Biggs will have one thing in common with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Both men are lottery winners, though the $10 million that Biggs won in the 1993 Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes is a lot more than the $5,000 that McCarthy once gained from a winning ticket.
• FL-13: On behalf of Rep. David Jolly, the GOP firm Data Targeting is out with a survey that shows Jolly and Democrat Charlie Crist tied 46-46. Oddly, while the memo says that “respondents wanted to move away from the vision and policies of Barack Obama” by a 57-32 margin, the 2016 presidential matchup was not included in the release. Obama carried the new version of this St. Petersburg seat by a 55-44 margin. The poll’s sample size is 300, which is exactly the threshold that we consider minimally acceptable.
It’s possible that Jolly is releasing this poll to try and encourage GOP outside groups to spend on his behalf. Jolly is a weak fundraiser, and Crist held a big $678,000 to $294,000 cash-on-hand edge in mid-August. However, Jolly has had an awful relationship with the NRCC for years, and things only got worse in April when they publicly accused the congressman of lying about them in a 60 Minutes segment about campaign fundraising. The NRCC has shown no interest in helping Jolly, while the Democratic group House Majority PAC has reserved about $1.5 million on Crist’s behalf. Given the Democratic nature of this seat and Jolly’s money woes, Daily Kos Elections rates this seats Lean Democratic.
• FL-18: The NRCC recently launched an ad at Democrat Randy Perkins where the narrator, without going into any detail, accused Perkins of “scamming a school district,” a claim we said sounded vague at the time. Perkins’ legal team soon argued that the spot is “false, misleading, and deceptive,” and they threatened to sue any stations that continue to air it. The move worked: Local stations have stopped running the ad, and the NRCC says they’ll put up a modified version.
As we’ve explained in the past, federal law says that 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. And consequently, they’re apt to take down potentially defamatory third-party ads when someone complains about the accuracy of their content.
As the Palm Beach Post explains, the controversy over this NRCC ad stems from 2009, when auditors for the Broward County school district determined that the district had overpaid Ashbritt, Perkins’ disaster relief company, by $766,000 for repairs from Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Ashbritt disputed that claim in a lawsuit the next year. In 2014, the parties reached a settlement where Ashbritt paid the district $200,000 and the district said that the company “committed no wrongdoing.” The settlement also stated that Ashbritt’s contract with the district was “ambiguous and there is a good-faith disagreement over its interpretation.” The nature of this settlement was evidently enough for TV stations to conclude that the NRCC’s description of the incident was false.
It’s pretty common for campaigns 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. The tactic doesn’t always work, of course: Stations want the ad revenue, and they won’t just roll over any time someone complains loudly enough. But in this case, local broadcasters evidently decided that Perkins’ threats had enough merit to take his side in this dispute.
• ME-02: In her new spot, Democrat Emily Cain argues that Republican Bruce Poliquin is hostile to campers and thus, to rural Maine. However, the message is delivered in a very unpersuasive way. The spot begins with one camper referring to an old story where Poliquin reportedly looked at a campground and declared, “These are not my kind of people,” though there’s no video or audio of this remark. (It’s just a recollection by a Poliquin neighbor of an incident that allegedly took place back in 2000.) Another camper replies that Poliquin is in the pocket of Wall Street.
The main problem with the commercial is the dialog between the campers is very unnatural. Can you imagine an actual couple having a conversation where one of them declared, “Well, Poliquin made millions on Wall Street. And he’s taken so much money from special interests that people are calling him ‘Wall Street’s champion'”? It also doesn’t help that, besides the old Poliquin quote, the spot doesn’t really do anything to persuade the audience that the congressman has it in for rural Maine.
If the spot had focused on some Poliquin votes that hurt the middle class or northern Maine in particular, that would be more effective. But the argument that Poliquin once lightly dissed campers and took a lot of money from special interests isn’t, by itself, very persuasive.
• Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff: On behalf of the Democratic group Project New America, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is out with a poll giving Democrat Paul Penzone a huge 53-44 edge over Republican Joe Arpaio, the notorious sheriff of Phoenix’s Maricopa County. The survey did not include any presidential results here. Maricopa usually is a reliably GOP area, though Arpaio only defeated Penzone 51-45 four years ago while Mitt Romney was carrying the county 54-44.
There have been a few other polls here, though they’ve all found things much closer. In early August, OH Predictive Insights gave Arpaio a 46-41 edge, while a late July survey for Lincoln Strategy Group had Penzone up 45-42.
• AZ-Sen: Republican Sen. John McCain is out with a Spanish spot where a family praises him as a “hero of Arizona.”
• LA-Sen: Ending Spending talks up Republican John Kennedy’s record as state treasurer. So far, the group appears to have put just $75,000 behind the ad.
• NV-Sen: Republican Joe Heck is going negative for the first time (though outside groups on both sides have been running negative commercials here for months). He argues that, while he served in Iraq, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto took luxurious overseas trips that were funded by special interests and taxpayers.
• OH-Sen: Republican Sen. Rob Portman spends $250,000 on a commercial where the senator, speaking in Spanish, talks about jobs.Fighting for Ohio drops another $1.1 million, and argues once again that Democrat Ted Strickland was a sucky governor.
• PA-Sen: The DSCC once again argues that Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is a Wall Street ally, while the narrator praises Democrat Katie McGinty as a defender of the middle class.
• MT-Gov: The RGA continues to tie Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to Hillary Clinton, arguing that they both have deleted emails.
The narrator is referring to a recent news story where the founder of a ski resort tried to get emails from Bullock’s time as state attorney general, only to be told that the emails no longer exist. The state Department of Administration says that nothing is amiss, and that it’s “ordinary procedure when an employee terminates employment from a branch or agency or moves between branches or agencies to terminate their email account.” However, the RGA’s narrator insists at the end of the commercial that “[i]f Hillary is wrong, Steve Bullock can’t be right.”
• VT-Gov: Through their group Our Vermont, the DGA argues that Republican Phil Scott wants to cut taxes on the rich and raise it on the middle class.
• AZ-02: Republican Martha McSally says she successfully fought to end a policy that required American servicewomen to wear Muslim garb, and is standing up to her party on equal pay for women.
• IA-03: Democrat Jim Mowrer‘s wife describes how he went back to serve in Iraq even though their son was just born.
• IL-12: Democrat C.J. Baricevic says that Republican Rep. Mike Bost voted for the fast track of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while Baricevic says he’ll stand up for American jobs.
• MI-07: Republican Rep. Tim Walberg argues that Democrat Gretchen Driskell missed road funding votes to raise money with Nancy Pelosi, and goes on to say that she backs Pelosi’s “liberal agenda.”
• NY-01: Democrat Anna Throne-Holst argues that Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is in the pocket of the NRA and lied when he said that he pushed a bill to make it tougher for terrorists to get guns.
• NY-03: Democrat Tom Suozzi and his daughter says that the candidate has always stood up for what was right, even if it meant taking on his own party. Republican Jack Martins talks about helping families.
• NY-19: Republican John Faso features retiring Rep. Chris Gibson vouching for him.
• TX-23: The NRCC says that Democrat Pete Gallego became a lobbyist after losing in 2014, though they don’t go into much detail.
• VA-05: Democrat Jane Dittmar argues that Republican Tom Garrett is in the pocket of Dominion Power and put communities at risk.
• WI-08: Republican Mike Gallagher emphasizes his career in the Marines.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.