The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● Race Ratings: As the battle for control of the Senate grows more competitive, Daily Kos Elections is moving a trio of contests in the Democrats’ direction, though all three Republican incumbents very much remain in the fight. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s race moves from Likely to Lean Republican, while Maine Sen. Susan Collins' and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis’ seats have gone from Lean Republican to Tossup.
With these changes, we now rate three Republican-held seats as Tossups (the two above plus Arizona) and one as Lean Democratic (Colorado). If Democrats can sweep these races and retake the White House, they'll win back control of the Senate even in the likely event that Alabama Sen. Doug Jones loses his bid for re-election.Campaign Action
Iowa (Likely Republican to Lean Republican). At the start of the cycle, it wasn’t clear whether Joni Ernst would be a serious target, but of late, both parties have begun treating the Hawkeye State as a major battleground. Ernst’s allies at the NRSC and the Senate Leadership Fund have reserved a total of $15.2 million in ad time, while the DSCC and the Senate Majority PAC have booked $20.4 million to unseat her. Businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, who has the support of national Democrats in the June 2 primary, has also proven to be a strong fundraiser, though Ernst still had considerably more money to spend at the end of March.
Still, while Ernst is in for a tougher race than she may have anticipated even a few months ago, she remains the favorite thanks to Iowa’s swing to the right over the last few years. Though the Hawkeye State had been competitive turf for generations, Ernst won by a surprisingly lopsided 52-44 margin in 2014, and Donald Trump did even better there two years later. Iowa did shift back towards Democrats last cycle when Democrats unseated two Republican House incumbents, but Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds still won a full term 50-48 in a bad year for her party.
Maine (Lean Republican to Tossup): Susan Collins has pulled off lopsided wins during all three of her re-election contests, and she remained very popular in her home state of Maine as recently as a couple of years ago. However, the incumbent’s numbers took a dive after she provided the decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, something that she seemed to acknowledge last summer.
We’ve only seen two polls this year, but they both showed Collins narrowly losing to state House Speaker Sara Gideon, who has the backing of national Democrats in the July primary and swamped Collins on the money front in the most recent quarter. Maine only narrowly backed Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Collins has a strong shot of winning a fifth term if Trump can come close again. But Collins, whose once-moderate veneer helped her win many Democratic votes in years past, is unused to having her fate tied to the top of the ticket and can no longer count on crossover support now that her extremism has been exposed.
North Carolina (Lean Republican to Tossup): Thom Tillis is another GOP incumbent who seemed to have the edge just a few months ago, but things have improved for Democrats since Cal Cunningham won his primary in early March. Cunningham decisively outraised Tillis over the following weeks, and multiple polls have shown Tillis trailing. North Carolina did back Trump 50-46, but if this swing state ends up in Joe Biden’s column this fall, Tillis will have a tough time hanging on.
● California: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an order directing that all California voters be sent a mail-in ballot for the November general election, though in-person voting will still remain an option. Leaders in the Democratic-run legislature plan to pass a bill that would do the same thing, but they had asked Newsom to issue this order so that election officials could begin making the necessary preparations immediately.
● Delaware: Democratic Gov. John Carney has postponed Delaware's presidential primary a second time, from June 2 to July 7. The delay will give the state more time to send absentee ballots applications to all registered Democrats and Republicans who have not yet requested one, a move that Carney also just announced. Carney's order also postpones all school board elections, which previously were moved from May 12 to June 16, until July 21.
● Louisiana: Voting rights advocates, including the NAACP, have filed a federal lawsuit asking that Louisiana's requirement that voters present an excuse in order to vote absentee be waived for all elections that take place during the coronavirus pandemic. The suit also seeks to waive the requirement that absentee voters obtain a witness' signature for their ballots. In addition, plaintiffs want the early voting period extended from seven days to 14.
● Michigan: Michigan officials have accepted a federal judge's original plan for easing ballot access requirements for congressional and judicial candidates despite an appeals court ruling that overturned that plan. As a result, the filing deadline for such candidates was extended from April 21 to May 8, the number of signatures required was halved, and candidates were allowed to collect and file signatures electronically.
● Minnesota: Democrats in the Minnesota House have given up on a plan to conduct the state's elections by mail after the Republican-run state Senate refused to consider it. Instead, both chambers passed a compromise bill that appropriates federal funds to promote absentee voting, help process an expected surge of mail ballots, and open more polling places to reduce crowding.
● MI-Sen: Advertising Analytics reports that Republican John James has launched a new $800,000 buy that will last for two weeks. The commercial touts James' time in the Army and in business and does not mention Democratic incumbent Gary Peters.
Candelaria Reardon is one of several candidates competing to succeed retiring Rep. Pete Visclosky in this reliably blue seat in the northwestern corner of the state, and there's no clear frontrunner at this point. Attorney and environmental advocate Sabrina Haake, who has self-funded most of her campaign, ended March with a $237,000 to $161,000 cash-on-hand lead over Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, who considered challenging the incumbent before Visclosky decided not to seek re-election.
Candelaria Reardon wasn't far behind with $146,000 available, while 2018 Secretary of State nominee Jim Harper had $81,000 to spend. North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan, who has Visclosky's endorsement, had just $43,000 on-hand, while businesswoman Melissa Borom did not report raising anything.
● NJ-03: Defending Main Street, a super PAC that backs establishment Republicans in primaries, has spent $100,000 on mailers boosting former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs and opposing wealthy businessman David Richter in the July GOP primary.
While Republicans reportedly recruited Gibbs to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, her fundraising has been very disappointing in this very expensive district. Gibbs outraised Richter $71,000 to $19,000 during the first quarter of 2020, but Richter self-funded another $100,000 and ended March with a large $462,000 to $112,000 cash-on-hand lead.
Kim hauled in $760,000 during this time and had a hefty $2.7 million available. However, despite the GOP's fundraising woes, this is still tough turf for Democrats: This seat, which includes the Philadelphia suburbs and central Jersey Shore, swung from 52-47 Obama to 51-45 Trump.
● TX-03: Attorney Lulu Seikaly picked up an endorsement on Friday from Rep. Marc Veasey, who serves as a regional DCCC vice chair, in the July Democratic runoff to take on freshman GOP Rep. Van Taylor.