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Morning Digest: Democrats pour on spending to assist Kris Kobach in Kansas Senate major

Democrats, of course, hope that the badly tainted Kobach, who lost a race for governor two years ago, can put this Senate seat in play thanks to his many faults, one of which continues to be weak fundraising. During the pre-primary period, which covers the first two weeks of July, Kobach brought in just $111,000 and had only $136,000 left over for the final weeks—precisely why Democrats are giving him a helping hand with backhanded ads claiming he’s “too conservative.”

The GOP establishment’s choice, Rep. Roger Marshall, didn’t fare much better, raising just $156,000, but he at least had a much healthier bank account balance of $1 million. He’s also been getting support from the Senate Leadership Fund, the main outside GOP group that spends on Senate races. As for wealthy businessman Bob Hamilton, he’s barely bothered to raise money from donors, but he’s self-funded $3.5 million to date and still had close to $1 million left to spend as well.

Yet while we have plenty of fundraising data, there haven’t been any recent polls of the race, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how the Aug. 4 primary will turn out. But as we wait, Democrat Barbara Bollier keeps stockpiling huge sums: She raised $3.7 million during the second quarter of the year—vastly more than the entire Republican field combined—and tacked on another $670,000 in the first half of the month, leaving her with $4.2 million in her war chest.

Election Changes

Indiana: Indiana Republicans have expressed their opposition to allowing all voters to cast absentee ballots without an excuse in November, even though they permitted excuse-free absentee voting for the state’s June 2 primary. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has declined to support the idea, saying at a mid-July press conference, “I am just one of those old-fashioned guys that wants to vote in person.”

Meanwhile, the Republican chair of the state’s Board of Elections says that because “there’s nothing like there was in the spring where we had all kinds of shelter-in-place orders,” he does not “anticipate as much change in how we would normally do an election.” Likewise, the state Republican Party chair says that he wants a traditional in-person election because the governor’s earlier stay-at-home order has expired.

Democrats want to once again let all voters participate absentee and warn that a late decision would harm preparations. A federal lawsuit seeking to waive the excuse requirement for the fall remains pending.

Senate

AZ-Sen, ME-Sen, NC-Sen: On behalf of the progressive advocacy organization MoveOn, Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling has conducted three surveys of battleground Senate races that all show Democrats leading. (The trendlines shown in parentheses describe PPP’s most recent prior poll of each state, all of which were done in-house.)

AZ-Sen: Mark Kelly (D) 51, Martha McSally (R-inc) 42 (March: 47-42 Kelly)
ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D) 47, Susan Collins (R-inc) 42 (early July: 46-42 Gideon)
NC-Sen: Cal Cunningham (D) 48, Thom Tillis (R-inc) 40 (early July: 47-39 Cunningham)

The polls did not include numbers for the presidential race.

CO-Sen: The NRSC has reportedly replaced an ad so appalling that even Republican Sen. Cory Gardner asked the committee to take it down, but its new spot is still replete with falsehoods.

The ad begins by claiming that Democrat John Hickenlooper “took millions in shadowy donations in the governor’s office,” with on-screen text calling them “secretive donation,” but there was nothing secret about them at all. Rather, as 9News’ Marshall Zelinger explained in a detailed fact-check, the website on which the contributions are publicly available is simply not user-friendly.

The narrator then claims that Hickenlooper paid for his defense against charges he’d violated state ethics rules by taking “$100,000 from a 9/11 recovery fund.” This, says the Hickenlooper campaign, is an outright lie: The money came from a 2003 federal bill that cut taxes and sent stimulus funds to the states.

MI-Sen: Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) for Fox News: Gary Peters (D-inc): 48, John James (R): 38 (Biden 49-40) (April: 46-36 Peters)

TN-Sen: Physician Manny Sethi has come under fire for having once contributed to former Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello’s successful 2008 campaign, so in his latest ad, his wife tries to take the blame for that donation. Maya Sethi, who apparently made the gift under her husband’s name (an issue that goes unaddressed), says she “sent $50” after “some friends called me for political donations.” She contrasts that relatively small amount with her husband’s opponent in next month’s GOP primary, Bill Hagerty, whom she claims “gave Romney and Al Gore over $100,000.”

Gubernatorial

VT-Gov: Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman is running his first TV ad ahead of the September Democratic primary, an extremely vague spot that features no spoken words at all but just on-screen text coupled with footage of the candidate working on what is presumably his farm. As we note whenever we see ads like this, this approach forces the viewer to pay complete attention in order for any message to get across, and without a spoken component, anyone whose eyes drift from the screen or gets up to refill a drink won’t absorb anything.

House

KS-02: State Treasurer Jake LaTurner once again goes at Rep. Steve Watkins over his legal troubles in his latest TV ad, though this time he’s a bit more subtle about it, with a narrator offering him up as an alternative for voters who are “sick of the scandals.”

The ad also promises LaTurner will “make Kansas proud again, like Lynn Jenkins did,” as a photo of LaTurner with Jenkins (and 4th District Rep. Ron Estes) appears on-screen. Awkwardly, though, Jenkins, who represented this seat for a decade before retiring in 2018, hasn’t actually endorsed LaTurner, even though he once worked for her. (She did, however, endorse Watkins ahead of the general election two years ago.)

Just how many people will see this ad, however, is a very good question, since LaTurner’s fundraising has been pitiful. Despite running against a guy who’d been under investigation for voter fraud since December and wound up getting indicted less than two weeks ago, LaTurner brought in just $82,000 during the second quarter of the year and less than $9,000 in the first two weeks of July, leaving him with $379,000 for the stretch run.

Watkins did little better, raising $122,000 in the second quarter and $17,000 in the first half of the month, with a balance of $256,000 for the final weeks. Democrat Michelle De La Isla, meanwhile, pulled in $354,000 for the quarter and another $22,000 during the pre-primary period. She has $516,000 in her campaign account.

MA-01: Democratic Rep. Richie Neal, who faces an aggressive primary challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse on Sept. 1, is running a new TV ad in which two constituents who run local businesses tout his work helping them secure COVID relief funding. However, as Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel points out, one of those businesses is, rather awkwardly, a country club. Observes Weigel, “Of all the businesses to choose, why that?”

NY-01: A new poll from Public Policy Polling on behalf of the 314 Action Fund finds Democrat Nancy Goroff (who has 314 Action’s endorsement) trailing Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin 47-40 in their battle for New York’s 1st Congressional District. Perhaps more importantly, the survey also shows Joe Biden tied at 47 apiece with Donald Trump, despite the fact that Trump carried this district 54-42 two years ago. That suggests that Goroff, who is undoubtedly less well-known than Zeldin, can make up that gap just by winning over Biden supporters.

And Goroff will likely have the resources to expand her name recognition. While Zeldin is currently sitting on a very large cash-on-hand advantage ($2.7 million to $324,000), Goroff has been a good fundraiser and has also self-funded heavily—about $1.2 million so far. Given her personal resources, she should be able to make up that gap.

TX-21: Saying that it’s “all in,” the extremist anti-tax Club for Growth is reportedly reserving $2.5 million for TV ads boosting Republican Rep. Chip Roy, running from Sept. 9 through Election Day. The move comes a day after Roy’s challenger, Democrat Wendy Davis, released a poll showing the incumbent up just 46-45 and Joe Biden leading Donald Trump 50-47.

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