The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
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● Senate: NBC reports that Republicans have outspent Democrats $106 million to $93 million over the last three weeks across the nine Senate battlegrounds, but, because so many GOP candidates are relying on super PACs to make up for their underwhelming fundraising, they aren't getting as much "bang for their buck" as their rivals. That's because, as we've written before, FCC regulations give candidates—but not outside groups—discounted rates on TV and radio.
Perhaps no race better demonstrates this in action than the Arizona Senate race. The GOP firm OH Predictive Insights relays that during the week of Sept. 19, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly and his allies outspent Republican Blake Masters' side 52-48 in advertising. Anyone just looking at raw dollar amounts would conclude that the two parties aired about the same number of ads during this period, but that's not the case at all. In reality, Kelly's side had a 4-1 advantage in gross ratings points, which measure how many times, on average, members of an ad's target audience have seen it.
Republicans can blame Masters, whom NBC says has spent all of $9,000 on ads during most of September, for much of the imbalance. The Senate Leadership Fund last week canceled all its planned ad time in Arizona while arguing that other super PACs would step in, and this data shows why Masters badly needs this prediction to finally come true.
Outside groups, though, can still air more ads than well-funded candidates if they're willing and able to spend massive amounts the way the GOP is in Ohio. Cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias reports that Republicans are airing 20% more commercials than their Democratic foes in the Buckeye State after spending or reserving almost three times as much. Democrat Tim Ryan, writes Tobias, is responsible for 83% of the ads coming from his side compared to just 8% for Vance, but the Senate Leadership Fund has committed $28 million here to bail out its underwhelming nominee.
● NC-Sen: Both Democrat Cheri Beasley and her allies at Senate Majority PAC are airing new commercials charging that when Republican Ted Budd's farm company, AgriBioTech, went bankrupt in 2000, it chose to repay itself rather than pay back the small farmers and creditors it owed millions to. "The Budds took $10 million and left over 1,000 farmers holding the bag," Beasley's narrator argues, while SMP declares, "One grower said, 'we were the little guy,' 'we got screwed.'"
The story was first reported last year by the Washington Post's Michael Kranish, who wrote that "a trustee for farmers and other creditors alleged that his [Budd's] father, Richard Budd, improperly transferred millions of dollars in assets to his family, including Ted Budd." The candidate was not an official at ABT, though the story identifies him as a "significant shareholder." The trustee, which named him as a defendant in their civil case, also accused Budd of having "acted in concert" with his father "in connection with the fraudulent transfers."
The matter was ultimately settled in 2005, with Kranish saying that the "Budd entities" agreed to pay "less than half of the amount initially earmarked for the farmers and other creditors" without admitting to any wrongdoing. The settlement left some bad feelings, though, with one Wyoming farmer telling the Post, "We got screwed and there was not a freaking thing we could do about it. There was no way to fight multimillionaires."
Richard Budd, who became chief executive of ABT after it bought his family's seed company, defended the candidate to Kranish, arguing, "Your attempts to tie my son to this business are dishonest and offensive. I wish my personal efforts to save ABT had been successful, but they were not." Ted Budd's campaign also denied any wrongdoing, saying the trustee's claims were "untrue allegations that are typical in that sort of litigation."
Budd and his allies at the Senate Leadership Fund, meanwhile, are each running commercials arguing that Beasley wants 87,000 more IRS agents, which continues to be a popular line of attack in GOP ads across the country. As we've written before, the agency reportedly will use the funds provided by the Inflation Reduction Act to replace many of the nearly 50,000 of its employees who could retire over the next five years. Many of the thousands of newly created IRS jobs beyond those positions would be in customer service and information technology.
And while the SLF has run ad after ad accusing Democrats of hating the police, its own commercial features menacing footage of what NBC says is "police raids and special agents at a gun range." Those videos accompany the narrator's prediction that "Beasley's gonna knock on your door with an army of new IRS agents" and that she "backs the liberal scheme to spend billions auditing the middle class, sending the IRS beast to collect her taxes on working families."
However, even Trump-appointed IRS Director Charles Rettig has stated that the agency would not crack down on those making less than $400,000, explaining that the beefed up enforcement of tax evasion would only target corporations and the richest 1-2% of households.
● PA-Sen: John Fetterman is airing another commercial pushing back on Republican Mehmet Oz and his allies' ads hitting the Democrat's work as head of the state Board of Pardons, which has been the GOP's favorite line of attack in the general election.
"Here's the truth: John gave a second chance to those who deserved it―nonviolent offenders, marijuana users," Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenny tells the audience, continuing, "He voted with law enforcement experts nearly 90% of the time. He reunited families and protected our freedom―and he saved taxpayer money." Kilkenny adds, "Dr. Oz doesn't know a thing about crime. He only knows how to help himself."
The GOP, though, is trying to push a very different line. Some of the party's favorite targets have been Lee and Dennis Horton, brothers who spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of second degree murder. The two in 1993 gave a ride to a friend named Robert Leaf who had just killed someone in a robbery, though they have always maintained that they didn't know Leaf had just committed murder. Gov. Tom Wolf last year commuted the Hortons' life sentences after Fetterman and prison officials championed their case, and the two went on to take jobs on Fetterman's Senate campaign.
Oz's campaign, though, has been happy to try to turn them into a liability for their boss, saying, "If John Fetterman cared about Pennsylvania's crime problem, he'd prove it by firing the convicted murderers he employs on his campaign." Fetterman, for his part, told the New York Times that if Republicans "destroy" his political career for advocating for people like the Hortons, "then so be it."
AZ-Sen: Suffolk University for the Arizona Republic: Mark Kelly (D-inc): 49, Blake Masters (R): 42, Marc Victor (L): 2
NC-Sen: GSG (D) for Cheri Beasley: Cheri Beasley (D): 46, Ted Budd (R): 46 (May: 45-45 tie)
OH-Sen: Siena College for Spectrum News: Tim Ryan (D): 46, J.D. Vance (R): 43
PA-Sen: InsiderAdvantage (R) for WTXF-TV: John Fetterman (D): 45, Mehmet Oz (R): 42
PA-Sen: Marist College: Fetterman (D): 51, Oz (R): 41
● PA-Gov: Campaign finance reports covering the period of June 7 to Sept. 19 are out, and they show that Democrat Josh Shapiro's $25.4 million haul utterly dwarfed the $3.2 million that Republican Doug Mastriano took in. Shapiro goes into the final weeks with a $10.9 million to $2.6 million cash-on-hand edge over Mastriano, who still has not so much as reserved any TV time and who recently lamented he's "[r]eally not finding a lot of support from the national-level Republican organizations."
P.S. Politico's Holly Otterbein flags that Mastriano received a $500 donation from Andrew Torba, the founder of the white supremist social network Gab. That's still far less than the $5,000 that Mastriano paid Gab in April for "campaign consulting," though.
AZ-Gov: Suffolk University for the Arizona Republic: Katie Hobbs (D-inc): 46, Kari Lake (R): 45
CT-Gov: Western New England University for CTInsider and WFSB: Ned Lamont (D-inc): 55, Bob Stefanowski (R): 40
ME-Gov: University of New Hampshire: Janet Mills (D-inc): 53, Paul LePage (R): 39, Sam Hunkler (I): 1
OH-Gov: Siena College for Spectrum News: Mike DeWine (R-inc): 55, Nan Whaley (D): 32
PA-Gov: InsiderAdvantage (R) for WTXF-TV: Josh Shapiro (D): 52, Doug Mastriano (R): 37
PA-Gov: Marist College: Shapiro (D): 53, Mastriano (R): 40
Quinnipiac University last week gave Lamont a similar 57-40 lead in its home state.
Early September numbers from the progressive Maine People's Resource Center showed Mills up 49-38 in a race that hasn't gotten much attention from pollsters.
● MT-01: Democrat Monica Tranel has publicized an internal from Impact Research that shows her trailing Republican Ryan Zinke only 45-43 in this newly-created seat in the western part of the state. This is the first poll we've seen from this 52-45 Trump constituency.
● House: The Washington Post reports that top allies of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were involved in a serious effort to deny the GOP nod to several House candidates they feared would either threaten his power or prove to be weak general election candidates, a drive the paper says they concealed during the primaries by sending cash "from top GOP donors through organizations that do not disclose their donors or have limited public records."
Their most prominent target was North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who was a massive pain even before the far-right freshman claimed that an unidentified colleague had invited him to an "orgy" and that he'd witnessed prominent conservatives doing "a key bump of cocaine." Cawthorn lost renomination to state Sen. Chuck Edwards after a group called Results for N.C. spent $1.7 million against the incumbent, and the Post writes that two McCarthy allies were part of its effort.
The paper adds that the minority leader's people were involved in the successful drives to block Anthony Sabatini in Florida's 7th District and Carl Paladino in New York's 23rd, who were each attacked by a newly-established group called American Liberty Action PAC. Both men blamed McCarthy for what happened, and the Post writes that his allies were indeed working to stop them: "They would have been legislative terrorists whose goal was fame," explained one unnamed source.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is close to the GOP leadership, also openly got involved in several more primaries, though it got decidedly mixed results for the $7 million it spent. CLF's ads helped secure general election berths for California Reps. Young Kim and David Valadao; Mississippi Rep. Michael Guest; and Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei. CLF also managed to advance Morgan Luttrell through the primary for Texas' open 8th District over a candidate backed by the troublesome Freedom Caucus, while it spent $40,000 on get out the vote calls for Florida Rep. Daniel Webster.
The super PAC, though, failed to get its preferred nominees across the finish line elsewhere. In Arizona's 4th, restaurateur Kelly Cooper overcame $1.5 million in CLF spending meant to ensure that establishment favorite Tanya Wheeless was Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton's rival instead. Democrats have since launched commercials faulting Cooper for, among other things, having "compared federal law enforcement agents to Nazis and the Gestapo."
CLF also fell short in its efforts to block Karoline Leavitt in New Hampshire's 1st and Brandon Williams in New York's 22nd, while another organization it funded couldn't prevent Joe Kent from beating out Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in the top-two primary.
But CLF's worst failure is arguably in North Carolina's 1st District where its $600,000 offensive wasn't enough to stop Sandy Smith. Democrats have spent the general election running commercials focusing on the abuse allegations that surfaced against her during the May primary, including a new spot highlighting how her daughter and two former husbands have accused her of domestic violence.
● Mark Souder: Indiana Republican Mark Souder, who was elected to the House during the 1994 red wave but resigned in 2010 after revealing an affair with a staffer, died Monday at the age of 72. Souder, who was perhaps best known for his advocacy of abstinence education, was an ardent conservative, though he defied his party leaders in two notable occasions early in his career: Souder was part of the failed 1997 revolt against Newt Gingrich, and he voted against two of the four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton the next year.
Souder got his start as an aide to then-Rep. Dan Coats, and in 1994 he decisively won a six-way primary to reclaim the Fort Wayne-based 4th District that Coats had once represented. Souder’s opponent was Democratic incumbent Jill Long Thompson, who pulled off a big upset in the 1989 special to replace Coats after he was appointed to replace Vice President Dan Quayle in the Senate. However, while Thompson had convincingly won her next two terms, the terrible climate for her party powered Souder to a 55-45 win in this historically Republican area.
Souder quickly became entrenched in his new seat, which was renumbered the 3rd District in the 2002 round of redistricting: The congressman only failed to win by double digits once when he turned back Democrat Tom Hayhurst 54-46 during the 2006 blue wave. However, Souder became a tea party target in 2010 after supporting the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program and later the Obama administration’s Cash for Clunkers program.
Souder ended up turning back self-funding auto dealer Bob Thomas by an unimpressive 48-34 margin, but he had very little time to enjoy his win. Just weeks later, the married congressman announced, “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff,” and that he’d be resigning over the scandal. Souder, whose marriage survived the ordeal, never ran for office again, though he became a regular columnist for the Indiana tip-sheet Howey Politics and wrote extensively about Fort Wayne’s local TV and baseball history.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.