Despite all right-wing efforts to demonize Nancy Pelosi, it’s Mitch McConnell who America hates

Conservatives have spent more than a decade demonizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has mostly gotten a pass. Part of that is our lack of a truly partisan liberal media network. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and all their endless offspring can hammer Pelosi relentlessly, but on the left? Daily Kos, a few Facebook memes, and some MSNBC shows are all we have. 

Yet despite all that, would you believe that Nancy Pelosi is far more popular than Mitch McConnell? 

It’s true! Civiqs has public tracking polls for both leaders (Pelosi and McConnell). Here’s how their numbers compare: 

Pelosi (D) McConnell (R) ALL Male Female Democrat Republican Independent
40-53 27-58
33-61 32-54
46-46 22-62
80-11 2-91
3-95 61-16
30-60 22-61

Pelosi is a net 18 points more popular than McConnell. That disparity is driven in huge part by a massive gender gap—40 points among women

Pelosi is +69 among Democrats, and McConnell is only +45 among Republicans, showing that Democrats are far more united around their leader than the opposition is. Frankly, that is shocking, given how McConnell is singularly responsible for the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Yet he consistently plays the role of villain for conservative wackos. Meanwhile, Pelosi has a 7-point advantage among independents, who mostly hate both of them. 

Pelosi (D) McConnell (R) 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+
38-49 17-66
40-52 23-61
40-55 31-54
43-54 35-52

McConnell has comically bad numbers among young voters, at -49 among 18-34 year olds. Pelosi looks wildly popular in comparison, at -9 net favorabilities. In fact, Pelosi is more popular in every age group, including seniors. 

And you know what’s crazy? McConnell is close to his all-time high favorabilities! 

His numbers go up during partisan movements as Republicans rally in support (during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh and during impeachment, most notably). He’s now fading as voters sour on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that there’s no urgency to do anything (a dynamic that’s particularly startling among independents). 

Meanwhile, Pelosi has benefitted most from two major successes—taking control of the House in 2018 (when Republicans put her in pretty much every ad they ran that cycle), and impeachment: 

Pelosi even got a little bump after she tore up impeached president Donald Trump’s speech at this year’s State of the Union address. 

Republican efforts to paint Pelosi as the nation’s worst villain have failed. See this 2018 ad by the National Republican Campaign Committee in a Houston-area congressional district: 

The ad ominously claimed, “[Democratic nominee Lizzie Fletcher] wants to fit in with Nancy Pelosi and her liberal agenda. That’s not Texas. Neither is Lizzie Fletcher.” 

Fletcher ousted 18-year incumbent John Culberson by five points. So either 1.) Nancy Pelosi’s liberal agenda is Texas, or 2.) no one gave much of a shit about Nancy Pelosi. And that story was repeated all over the country as Democrats gained 41 seats in their massive wave victory. 

As much as we despair over the state of our nation (Trump’s approval ratings should be 12% or lower), there are bright spots. The fact that the entire might of the conservative right-wing media machine has been unable to drag Pelosi down is one of them. The fact that McConnell is as unpopular as he is, despite a lack of liberal mass media, is another. 

Sometimes, people do pay attention, and make the right choices. And thinking McConnell is a piece of shit is, undoubtedly, the right choice. 

Conservative courts order Wisconsin election to proceed—risks to health and democracy be damned

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.

Leading Off

Wisconsin: A day of maximal chaos in Wisconsin ended with two conservative courts insisting Tuesday's election go forward and limiting absentee voting, moves that threaten to prevent countless voters from participating and render the results illegitimate.

On Monday afternoon, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order postponing the election—which includes a presidential primary and races for state and local office—to June 9. Republicans, however, have bitterly opposed such a delay and immediately challenged the order before the state Supreme Court. Hours later, the court's four conservatives who heard the case blocked Evers' order, with both liberal justices dissenting. As a result, the state was left with no choice but to proceed with in-person voting Tuesday, despite the serious risks to public health and a crippled elections infrastructure.

Not long thereafter, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an order made last Thursday by a lower court, which said that voters could cast absentee ballots so long as election officials received them by April 13, regardless of when they were postmarked. In a 5-4 ruling—which, like the Wisconsin high court's decision, fell along strictly ideological lines—the court's conservatives ruled that all ballots must be postmarked by April 7.

This means that those who have the misfortune to receive their ballots late—a distinct possibility for many, given the huge surge in requests—now face an impossible choice, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in a dissent: They must either risk their health by voting in person on Tuesday, or disenfranchise themselves by not voting at all. The same holds true for anyone who was unable to request a ballot, as well as the many groups of voters who cannot vote by mail, such as those who are without housing.

Campaign Action

And for those who do choose to head to the polls, they face an elections infrastructure in shambles. Due to a shortage of poll workers, Milwaukee, the largest city in Wisconsin, was set to open just five polling sites, down from its usual 180. The same problem has plagued jurisdictions across the state. Many voters will therefore be deprived of their right to vote, and efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus will be undermined.

But a deep cynicism motivates the right-wing hostility to letting voters participate in the election safely: With progressives mounting a competitive campaign to unseat an arch-conservative appointee of former Gov. Scott Walker on the state Supreme Court, Republicans appear to be counting on the pandemic to disproportionately suppress votes on the left.

In part that's because social distancing is more difficult in denser urban areas, which make up the bulk of the Democratic vote; voters in more sparsely populated rural areas are likely to be less deterred from voting in person, since they're apt to encounter fewer people at the polls or on their way there. In addition, polling shows Republicans are simply less concerned about the coronavirus in general, meaning they're more willing to ignore the danger to public health (and their own) that in-person voting poses.

And now, after decades of concerted effort, Republicans have succeeded in installing partisan ideologues on the bench—both federally and at the state level—who are only too happy to cloak the GOP's malevolent political goals in the language of legalese and bless them with the authority of the bench. In a searing irony, a message atop the Wisconsin Supreme Court's website explains that the courts are closed due to COVID-19—just above a link to the court's order saying Tuesday's election must take place despite COVID-19.

In his ruling last week delaying the deadline for absentee ballots to be received, Judge William Conley included a pregnant footnote. "The court will reserve," he wrote, "on the question as to whether the actual voter turnout, ability to vote on election day or overall conduct of the election and counting votes timely has undermined citizens' right to vote."

In other words, Conley suggested that he might entertain further challenges after the election if the all-important right to vote has been abridged in some way based on how the election is carried out. As things stand, it's impossible to see how those rights won't be sabotaged, but with the partisans in robes sitting above Conley, it's just as hard to see them permitting any remedy he might fashion to stand.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, both of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.

Iowa: Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate says that he's considering the option of conducting November's general election entirely by mail. Previously, Pate said he'd mail absentee ballot applications to every active registered voter ahead of Iowa's June 2 downballot primaries. Pate says he considered making the primary all-mail but opted not to after talking to officials in Washington and Oregon, who described the long timeframes that had been needed to convert their states to mail voting.

Montana: Republican Secretary of State Corey Stapleton says that all 56 Montana counties plan to conduct the state's June 2 presidential and downballot primaries by mail, an option that Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock recently made available.

New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy says he'll be "stunned" if the state doesn't postpone its June 2 presidential and downballot primaries, promising a decision "pretty soon."

Virginia: Republicans in Virginia's 7th Congressional District have indefinitely postponed their April 25 convention and have voted to sue the Board of Elections to seek an exemption from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. Officials are also considering alternate methods of conducting their convention, such as online or by mail. The committee must pick a nominee by June 9. Republicans in the 5th District, who face the same situation, are meeting on Sunday to discuss their plans.

1Q Fundraising

TN-Sen: Bill Hagerty (R): $1.2 million raised, $5.6 million cash-on-hand (note: Hagerty's campaign would not tell the Associated Press how much of his haul came from self-funding)

IA-03: David Young (R): $400,000 raised

MA-04: Jake Auchincloss (D): $474,000 raised, $947,000 cash-on-hand; Alan Khazei (D): $278,000, $783,000 cash-on-hand raised

NH-01: Matt Mowers (R): $354,000 raised, $315,000 cash-on-hand

TX-07: Wesley Hunt (R): $920,000 raised

TX-24: Kim Olson (D): $370,000 raised; Candace Valenzuela (D): $305,000 raised

Senate

KY-Sen: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently went up with a commercial that praised him for the coronavirus economic bill, and Marine veteran Amy McGrath is now out with a response ad. The narrator declares that McConnell is "already taking a victory lap against the coronavirus in TV ads, even though medical experts say hundreds of thousands of Americans could die." The Democrat's ad also takes McConnell to task for blocking "emergency research until drug companies could overcharge for vaccines."

MI-Sen: The conservative think tank American Principles Project is out with a poll from the GOP firm Spry Strategies that gives Democratic Sen. Gary Peters a 42-40 edge over Republican John James.

South Dakota: Candidate filing closed last week for South Dakota's June 2 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here. A primary runoff will take place on Aug. 11 in races where no candidate took more than 35% of the vote.

However, both the primary and the general election should be quiet this year in this very red state. GOP Sen. Mike Rounds faces an intra-party challenge from state Rep. Scyller Borglum, who raised very little cash in 2019. Rep. Dusty Johnson also drew a challenge from former state Rep. Liz Marty May, who narrowly lost re-election last cycle.

Gubernatorial

MT-Gov: On Monday, the Montana Federation of Public Employees endorsed Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney in the June Democratic primary. Cooney's campaign says that this is the state's largest union.

WV-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Ron Stollings is out with a spot ahead of the June primary focused on the coronavirus. Stollings, who works as a physician, appears in his lab coat and tells the audience, "Regarding the coronavirus, I'm so glad we were able to get $2 million in the budget to help fight that. That was my amendment."

Stollings spends the rest of the ad telling the audience to use "good common sense" during the pandemic. He says to "assume everyone has the coronavirus. They don't, but that way, you will socially distance yourself and you'll use hand washing techniques." He also urges the viewer, "Do not go around your loved ones, your older loved ones, if you're sick."

House

CA-25: The DCCC has launched a $1 million ad campaign against Republican Mike Garcia that the Los Angeles Times reports will run until the May 12 special election. Politico reports that $930,000 of this is going to cable TV and another $42,000 will be for Spanish-language commercials, while the balance will be for digital advertising.

The DCCC's opening spot alludes to the coronavirus without mentioning it directly: The narrator says, "More than ever we need a leader who will put our health and safety first." The commercial goes on to say, "But Mike Garcia would let insurance companies deny coverage for pre-existing conditions … and hike up costs for life-saving drugs." The commercial then praises Democrat Christy Smith for refusing to "take a dime from pharmaceutical companies."

The ad comes shortly after the NRCC also began spending here. Politico reports that the committee is deploying $330,000 for broadcast TV in addition to the $690,000 cable buy we noted last week.

FL-19: Physician William Figlesthaler uses his first ad ahead of the August GOP primary to tell the audience that "career politicians from both parties have failed" to handle the coronavirus. The candidate uses an image of Bernie Sanders to represent Democrats who "want socialized medicine," while the late John McCain stands in for the establishment Republicans Figlesthaler says "failed to implement President Trump's aggressive free market health care solutions."

KY-04: GOP Rep. Thomas Massie is up with an ad portraying him as a loyal Donald Trump ally while ignoring that Trump called him "a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky" less than two weeks ago. Massie also doesn't mention Todd McMurtry, who is his opponent in the June primary.

MI-13: Target-Insyght is out with a survey of the August Democratic primary conducted from March 31 to April 2 that gives Rep. Rashida Tlaib a 43-34 advantage in her rematch against Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. Back in July, well before Jones kicked off her campaign, the same firm found Tlaib with a far larger 56-19 lead. Jones, who entered the race on March 25, announced on Thursday that she had tested positive for COVID-19 but added she was "not experiencing any of the horrific symptoms associated with the coronavirus."

NM-02: A recently formed super PAC called Citizens United for NM is spending at least $47,000 on a commercial attacking 2018 nominee Yvette Herrell ahead of the June GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. This group was created by Butch Mathews, who owns a trucking company that works in the state's oil and gas industry, and it donated to Herrell's main intra-party foe, oil businesswoman Claire Chase.

The commercial says that in 2016, Herrell sent out emails "to undermine Trump's campaign for president" and also "used taxpayer funds to attend an anti-Trump soiree at a San Diego hotel where they hung a Trump piñata from the ceiling." The commercial comes several months after Chase ran into problems when her old 2016 social media posts attacking Trump surfaced.

Virginia: Candidate filing closed last month for Virginia's June 9 primary, and the state now has a list of contenders.

Virginia allows parties to nominate candidates through party conventions or through a party-run firehouse primary, so not every November matchup will be decided in June. Both parties are holding primaries for Senate, but the situation varies in House seats: The GOP is hosting primaries in only five of the 11 congressional districts, while Democrats are doing primaries everywhere except for the safely red 9th Congressional District.

VA-02: Democrat Elaine Luria unseated Republican incumbent Scott Taylor 51-49 last cycle, and Republicans are hoping to take back this 49-45 Trump seat in the Virginia Beach area.

Taylor initially decided to launch a longshot challenge to Sen. Mark Warner, but he announced in January that he would instead seek a rematch against Luria. Navy veteran and 2010 candidate Ben Loyola was already running, though, and he decided to remain in the contest. Loyola has the support of former Rep. Scott Rigell, who defeated him 40-27 in the primary for an open seat in 2010 and retired in 2016. Navy veteran Jarome Bell is also running, but he didn’t report raising any money during the final months of 2019.

Taylor is the frontrunner to win the GOP nod, but Team Red may still benefit from a different nominee. Taylor’s staff was exposed during the 2018 campaign for forging signatures on behalf of Democrat-turned-independent Shaun Brown (who was booted off the ballot by a judge), and Democrats ran ads slamming Taylor's campaign for its skullduggery.

The story has not gone away since Taylor's defeat. Last month, a former Taylor staffer pleaded guilty for her part in the scheme, and the local prosecutor said the "investigation is still ongoing" and that we're "likely to see more" indictments to come. Taylor himself has consistently denied any knowledge of the scheme, but his staff had previously claimed the congressman was indeed aware of their plans.

VA-05: While the GOP opted to select its nominee through a convention, Democrats decided to hold a primary here instead. This seat, which includes Charlottesville and the south-central part of the state, moved from 53-46 Romney to 53-42 Trump, but Democrats are hoping that the ugly GOP nomination battle between freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman and Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good will give them an opening.

Four Democrats filed to compete in the primary. EMILY’s List is backing Claire Russo, while VoteVets is supporting fellow Marine veteran Roger Dean Huffstetler, who unsuccessfully ran here in 2018. Physician Cameron Webb and Rappahannock County Supervisor John Lesinski are also running.

House: House Majority PAC, which is the second-largest spender on House races among outside groups on the Democratic side, has announced that it's reserved a total of $51 million in fall TV time in 29 different media markets. We've assembled this new data into a spreadsheet, but as you'll see, it's organized by market rather than district, so we've also included our best guesses as to which House seats HMP is specifically targeting or defending.

The reason these buys are organized this way is because advertising can only be booked market by market. The geographic regions served by particular TV stations rarely correspond with political boundaries, and the reverse is true as well.

About half of the nation's 435 congressional districts are contained within a single media market, while the other half cross two or more (sprawling Montana's lone House district reaches into nine different markets, the most in the country). Conversely, all but a couple dozen of the 900-plus media markets in the U.S. overlap with two or more congressional districts; jumbo-sized New York City, for instance, covers all or part of 34 different House seats in four different states. Inevitably, this mismatch means that many TV watchers will wind up seeing ads for districts they don't live in.

Most importantly, these reservations give us an early window into which races HMP expects to be competitive, but they don't tell us everything. As Politico notes, most of these media markets will likely attract hordes of ad money from presidential and Senate campaigns, so HMP is reserving now to lock in cheaper rates before high demand for TV time brings prices up. HMP can afford to wait, though, to book ads in competitive House seats located in markets like Los Angeles and Salt Lake City since there won't be nearly as much competition for airtime there.

As we alluded to just above, HMP included several markets in this first wave of reservations that contain at least a portion of several different competitive House seats, most notably Philadelphia. If you're interested in knowing exactly which media markets cover which congressional districts across the country, naturally we've got all that data for you. It's what we used, in fact, to hone our guesses as to which seats HMP cares about.

However, it's still too early to know how much money the PAC will direct towards each race. Often, major outside groups will change their planning based on how individual contests seem to be shaping up.

In 2018, for instance, the NRCC reserved a large chunk of TV time in the pricey Miami media market but, initially, it only used those bookings to air ads defending Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida's 26th District. Late in the cycle, though, the NRCC put some of that reserved airtime to work in an effort to save the open 27th District, which it had previously appeared to give up on.

Around that same time, the committee made the opposite move in the Las Vegas market. The NRCC reserved millions there well before Election Day, and it initially seemed that it would spend to try to flip both Nevada's 3rd and 4th Districts. In October, though, the NRCC decided to direct all its money towards helping former Rep. Cresent Hardy in the 4th District, and it didn't end up spending in the 3rd District at all.

None of these deck chair rearrangements wound up mattering, though: Republicans ultimately lost all four of these races in what was a terrible year for the GOP. But they're a good reminder that TV reservations often do not reveal the entire House battlefield.

Other Races

WA-LG: Retiring Rep. Denny Heck recently filed paperwork with the state to run for lieutenant governor, though the Democrat has not said he’s in yet. The filing deadline for Washington’s August top-two primary is May 15.

Heck surprised political observers in December when he announced that he would not seek a fifth term in his reliably blue seat. In an unusually candid letter, Heck described both the many things he'd loved about serving in Congress but also admitted he'd grown "discouraged," explaining that "countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary." Last month, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib made an unexpected decision of his own when he revealed that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election and would instead leave politics to become a Jesuit.

If Heck goes forward with a campaign to succeed Habib, he’ll be the second retiring House member this cycle to run for a lieutenant governor’s post. Utah Rep. Rob Bishop confirmed back in July that he’d leave the House, and the Republican later announced in January that he’d serve as former state party chair Thomas Wright’s running mate.

However, both Heck and Bishop would be running for office under very different rules. In Utah, Wright and Bishop will either win or lose the June primary together as a ticket; if they clear the primary, they’d also both be elected or defeated together in the general election. In Washington, though, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor compete separately in both the top-two primary and the general election.

Morning Digest: Progressives can flip a key seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court this April

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.

Leading Off

WI Supreme Court: The battle lines for a crucial race for Wisconsin's Supreme Court have now been set following the results of Tuesday's primary, with incumbent Justice Dan Kelly facing off against Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky on April 7.

The officially nonpartisan election featured three candidates running on the same ballot: Kelly, a conservative appointed to his post by former Gov. Scott Walker in 2016, as well two progressives, Karofsky and law professor Ed Fallone. Kelly took 50.1% of the vote and Karofsky 37.2%, advancing both of them to the general election; Fallone, who was badly outspent, finished a distant third with just 12.7%. Combined, however, Karofsky and Fallone were less than 2,000 votes behind Kelly.

Campaign Action

That tight outcome suggests another very close contest in April. Last year, in a race for a Supreme Court seat held by a retiring liberal justice, conservative Brian Hagedorn slipped past progressive Lisa Neubauer by just 6,000 votes out of 1.2 million cast overall. It was a painful loss for the left, as Hagedorn's win shifted the court from a 4-3 majority in favor of conservatives to a 5-2 advantage.

Karofsky now has the chance to slim that back down to a one-vote edge for conservatives and put liberals in a position to flip the court in 2023, when Chief Justice Patience Roggensack's current term ends. April's vote will coincide with the Democratic primary for president, which could give Karofsky a boost. In fact, Republicans had sought to move the presidential primary during the lame-duck session of the legislature after Walker lost to Democrat Tony Evers in 2018, precisely to help Kelly, though they ultimately abandoned the idea despite passing legislation to grab power from Evers before he took office.

But by no means will the GOP give up on Kelly, who so far has outraised Karofsky $988,000 to $414,000. In last year's race, the Republican State Leadership Committee, which aids candidates in state races at all levels of the ballot, parachuted in at the last minute with a seven-figure expenditure on behalf of Hagedorn that may have proved critical to his victory. While some progressive groups stepped up for Neubauer, Democrats lack an equivalent "DSLC"—there's no formal party organization devoted to winning state supreme court elections—so they'll need to find a way to match resources with the right if Karofsky is to win.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The GOP pollster HighGround Public Affairs is out with a poll of their home state that gives Democrat Mark Kelly a 46-39 lead over appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally. The only other poll we've seen of this race this year was a January survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had Kelly ahead by a smaller 46-42 margin. HighGround did not identify a client for this poll.

McSally recently began running TV ads ahead Kelly, and she's now up with another spot. The commercial is titled "Bernie Bro," which pretty much tells you all you need to know about its content.

KY-Sen: Retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath launched her first TV ads of the year last week well ahead of the May Democratic primary to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the Democratic firm Amplify Media reports that she's spending another $418,000 from Feb. 18 through Feb. 24.

ME-Sen: On behalf of Colby College, SocialSphere is out with the first poll we've seen here in months, and they give Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon a narrow 43-42 edge over GOP Sen. Susan Collins. SocialSphere also takes a look at the June primary and finds Gideon, who has the support of the DSCC and other national Democratic groups, leading 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet by a 60-8 margin.

The last poll we saw testing Collins against Gideon was a July survey for the AARP from the GOP firm Fabrizio Ward that had the incumbent up 52-35, but no one is acting like Collins is well ahead. Both the Collins and Gideon campaigns, as well as outside groups from both sides, have already spent heavily on ads, and they don't show any sign of stopping. Indeed, Majority Forward has launched a new three-week $550,000 TV ad campaign, and they're out with another commercial hitting Collins for refusing to vote for legislation to lower prescription drug costs.

Collins herself also didn't dispute the idea that her once mighty approval rating has taken a dive back in July, and more recent polls have continued to show her struggling. Morning Consult gave Collins an underwater 42-52 approval rating for the final quarter of 2019, which was worse than any senator in the country but Mitch McConnell himself, while SocialSphere put her favorable rating at 42-54.

NC-Sen: On behalf of WRAL-TV, SurveyUSA is out with a poll off the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, and they give former state Sen. Cal Cunningham a 42-17 lead over state Sen. Erica Smith. This result is considerably better for Cunningham than the 29-10 lead he posted in separate February surveys by High Point University and from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

The poll comes as the GOP-connected super PAC Faith and Power has been running a $2.9 million ad campaign praising Smith, who doesn't have much money to get her name out. National Democrats, who are supporting Cunningham, very much believe that Faith and Power is getting involved because they think Smith will be much easier for Tillis to beat, and they're devoting more money towards helping Cunningham.

Carolina Blue, a super PAC that was only recently created, has reserved over $3 million in ads, and Advertising Analytics reports that its first commercials began airing on Wednesday. Politico reports that VoteVets is also spending an additional $1.5 million on pro-Cunningham ads: The group's new commercial praises Cunningham's record in the legislature and progressive agenda and declares he "won't let anyone repeal Obamacare."

TX-Sen: The newly-formed Lone Star Forward PAC has launched a TV spot in support of nonprofit head Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary to face GOP Sen. John Cornyn, and the group says that the initial buy is in the "low six figures." The ad tells the audience that Tzintzún Ramirez is "running to be our first Latina senator" and will be a progressive voice on healthcare and gun safety issues.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: Stand Tall With Mike, the main group fighting to prevent GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy from being removed from office, announced on Tuesday that it would drop its legal opposition to the recall campaign. However, the Alaska Division of Elections is still challenging a lower court ruling that allowed the recall to proceed, and the state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on March 25.

Dunleavy's allies, though, say that they very much expect the justices to allow the recall campaign to reach the ballot. Stand Tall With Mike put out a Trumpy statement declaring that "it is clear that the Court is determined to let the recall effort go forward before it has even reviewed the parties' legal briefings."

While the Alaska Supreme Court has yet to rule on the legality of the recall, it has allowed Recall Dunleavy to collect the petitions they need to get a recall measure on the ballot. If Recall Dunleavy prevails in court, it will have to collect more than 71,000 signatures, which is 25% of the votes cast in 2018, to advance to the ballot. There's no time limit for gathering petitions, and a recall election would take place 60 to 90 days after the Division of Elections verified that enough valid signatures have been turned in.

If Dunleavy is removed from office, he would be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a fellow Republican. No matter what, though, Alaska's regularly-scheduled gubernatorial election will take place in 2022.

NC-Gov: SurveyUSA is out with a poll of the March 3 GOP primary on behalf of WRAL-TV, and it gives Lt. Gov. Dan Forest a hefty 60-8 lead over state Rep. Holly Grange. High Point University also recently found Forest ahead by a similar 54-10 spread in the contest to take on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

House

IA-02: State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks picked up an endorsement this week from Sen. Joni Ernst ahead of the June GOP primary for this open southeastern Iowa seat. Miller-Meeks also recently earned the support of a number of state legislators including fellow state Sen. Chris Cournoyer, who talked about running here in April, and Roby Smith, who was also once mentioned as a prospective candidate.

Miller-Meeks announced in early October that she would run to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, who beat her in 2008, 2010, and 2014. Her main opponent in the primary is Bobby Schilling, a former one-term congressman from across the Mississippi River in Illinois who has struggled to raise money for his first Iowa race. Miller-Meeks outpaced Schilling $250,000 to $26,000 during her opening quarter, and she ended December with a $215,000 to $50,000 cash-on-hand lead.

National Democrats are backing former state Sen. Rita Hart, who doesn't face any serious intra-party opposition, in the race to hold this 49-45 Trump seat. Hart raised $336,000 during the last quarter, and she closed the year with $648,000 in the bank.

NY-02: Suffolk County Director of Health Education Nancy Hemendinger announced on Wednesday that she was dropping out of the June GOP primary and endorsing Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino.

NY-27: On Tuesday, Donald Trump tweeted out his "Complete Endorsement" for state Sen. Chris Jacobs for the April 28 special election. Normally it wouldn't be remotely newsy that Trump is supporting the GOP nominee in an election, but this is an odd case.

That's because Jacobs, whose detractors fault him for refusing to back Trump in the 2016 general election, faces opposition in the June primary from both attorney Beth Parlato and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. While Trump's tweet explicitly referred to the April special, his message will allow Jacobs to tell voters he's the White House's pick from now until late June.

Pennsylvania: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Pennsylvania's April 28 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. However, challenges to nominating petitions are common in the Keystone State, and candidates are sometimes knocked off the ballot, so expect some changes.

PA-01: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick prevailed last cycle 51-49 in a Bucks County seat that Hillary Clinton had carried 49-47 in 2016, and he's now just one of two Republicans seeking re-election in a Clinton district (the other is New York Rep. John Katko). Fitzpatrick is a strong fundraiser, and he ended December with $1.4 million in the bank.

Three Democrats filed to take him on, but Pennsbury school board member Debbie Wachspress was the only one who had brought in a credible amount of money at the end of 2019. Wachspress had $355,000 on-hand while her intra-party opponents, Bucks County housing department official Christina Finello and businessman Skylar Hurwitz, each had less than $12,000 in the bank.

Fitzpatrick does face a primary challenge of his own from businessman Andrew Meehan, but Meehan had a tiny $6,000 war chest at the end of last year. Fitzpatrick's allies at EDF Action also released a poll on Wednesday from the GOP firm WPA Intelligence that showed the incumbent beating Meehan 59-19.

PA-06: Democrat Chrissy Houlahan easily flipped this 53-43 Clinton seat last cycle after GOP incumbent Ryan Costello dropped out after the filing deadline, and the GOP doesn't seem to be making much of an effort to take it back. The only Republican who ended up filing is businessman John Emmons, who has been self-funding almost his entire campaign but still trailed Houlahan in cash-on-hand by a wide $2.1 million to $221,000 at the end of 2019.

PA-07: Democrat Susan Wild decisively won an open seat race last cycle after national Republicans abandoned their nominee, but 2020 could be a more difficult year for her. This Lehigh Valley seat shifted from 53-46 Obama to just 49-48 Clinton, and this time, national Republicans have a candidate they're more excited about.

Former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller entered the race in October and quickly earned an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Scheller has already begun self-funding. Wild outraised Scheller $516,000 to $250,000 during the final three months of 2019, but Scheller poured in an additional $300,000 of her own money. Wild ended the year with a $1.06 million to $432,000 cash-on-hand lead over Scheller.

Two other Republicans who have previously run for Congress are also campaigning here. Former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning narrowly lost the 2018 primary despite being badly outspent, and he had $225,000 available at the end of December after self-funding a little more than half of his campaign. Race car driver Matt Connolly, a perennial candidate who most recently lost a 2016 contest to Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright in the old 17th District by a 54-46 margin, had only $4,000 to spend.

PA-08: This seat in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area swung from 55-43 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright turned back a self-funding opponent last cycle by a convincing 55-45 margin. Republicans are hoping that Cartwright will be in much more danger with Trump on the ballot, though, and six candidates have filed to take him on.

Earl Granville, an Army veteran who lost part of his left leg in Afghanistan, entered the race in mid-December and earned an endorsement the following month from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Granville only had $5,000 on-hand at the end of 2019, though his other rivals weren't exactly drowning in cash either. Former police officer Teddy Daniels had $65,000 to spend, while Luzerne County Councilor Harry Haas had just $8,000 available. Cartwright, by contrast, had $1.3 million on-hand to defend his seat.

Jim Bognet, who served in the Trump administration as a senior vice president for communications for the Export-Import Bank, entered the GOP primary in January after the new fundraising quarter ended. Two other Republicans, 24-year-old businessman Mike Cammisa and former Hazelton Mayor Mike Marsicano, are also in. Marsicano is a former Democrat who lost re-election all the way back in 1999 and has unsuccessfully run for office as a Democrat several times since then.

PA-10: This Harrisburg-based seat backed Trump 52-43, but GOP Rep. Scott Perry only won re-election last cycle 51-49 in an unexpectedly expensive contest. Democrats are talking Perry, who is a prominent member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, and the DCCC is supporting state Auditor Eugene DePasquale.

The other Democrat running here is attorney Tom Brier, who trailed DePasquale $468,000 to $203,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of December. DePasquale recently released a primary poll that showed him beating Brier 68-16, while Brier has not yet responded with better numbers. Perry had $622,000 available at the close of 2019 to defend his seat.

PA-16: GOP Rep. Mike Kelly won re-election last cycle just 52-47 even though Donald Trump carried this Erie-area seat by a strong 58-39 margin two years before, and he's repeatedly been busted by the local media since then for selling used cars that were subject to safety recalls. However, the only Democrat who ended up filing to run here, teacher Kristy Gnibus, only had a mere $15,000 available at the end of 2019, so it's not clear if Team Blue can take advantage of Kelly's weaknesses. Two other Democrats who previously announced bids, customer service supervisor Daniel Smith and auto salesman Edward DeSantis, did not end up filing.

PA-17: Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb decisively beat Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus 56-44 after court-ordered redistricting threw the two incumbents into the same suburban Pittsburgh seat, but Republicans are hoping to target Lamb this year in this 49-47 Trump district.

Trump has endorsed Army veteran Sean Parnell, an author who frequently appears on Fox News, and Parnell brought in a credible $255,000 during his opening quarter. Lamb still raised a considerably larger $585,000, though, and he ended 2019 with a $979,000 to $219,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Only one other Republican, businessman Jesse Vodvarka, is running, and he's unlikely to put up much of a fight. Vodvarka has served as campaign manager for his father, Joe Vodvarka, during his four forgettable Senate bids as both a Republican and a Democrat. Another Republican, Green Beret veteran Brian Thomsen, announced he was running last year but didn't end up filing.

TX-07: Army veteran Wesley Hunt is up with a new TV spot telling GOP voters that he has Donald Trump's endorsement (true), and that socialists "have a Green New Deal that would ban Texas oil and gas" (a lie). Politico reports that this is part of a new $100,000 buy from Hunt ahead of the March 3 primary to face Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher.

VA-05: Republican officials decided last year to nominate their candidate through a party convention rather than through a primary, and we now know that the gathering will take place on April 25. Freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman faces a notable intra-party challenge from Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good, and he could end up having trouble winning.

GOP conventions tend to be dominated by delegates who prize ideology above all else, and Riggleman infuriated plenty of social conservatives at home in July when he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers. This quickly resulted in a homophobic backlash against the congressman, and local Republican Parties in three small 5th District counties each passed anti-Riggleman motions.

This seat, which includes Charlottesville and south-central Virginia, backed Trump 52-41, and Riggleman defeated a well-funded Democrat 53-47 last cycle. A few Democrats are campaigning here already, though, and a messy GOP fight could give the eventual nominee more of an opening. While Team Blue also held a convention to pick its nominee last year, this time around, Democrats have opted to hold a traditional primary in June.

WI-07: On Tuesday, state Sen. Tom Tiffany defeated Army veteran Jason Church 57-43 to win the GOP nod for the May 12 special election for this conservative northwestern Wisconsin seat. On the Democratic side, Wausau School Board president Tricia Zunker, who would be the state's first Native American member of Congress, defeated underfunded businessman Lawrence Dale 89-11.

Tiffany had the support of former Rep. Sean Duffy, who resigned from this seat last year, as well as former Gov. Scott Walker. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth, two groups that often end up on opposite sides in GOP primaries, also both spent plenty of money to back Tiffany. Church raised a comparable amount of money as Tiffany and benefited from heavy spending from With Honor Fund and newly formed Americans 4 Security PAC, but the first-time candidate still fell short.

This seat was competitive turf a decade ago, but it's been moving sharply to the right ever since thanks to a high proportion of white voters without a college degree. Barack Obama actually carried the 7th (adjusting for redistricting) in 2008 by a 53-45 margin, but four years later, Mitt Romney won it 51-48. The bottom did not truly fall out until 2016, though, when Donald Trump prevailed by a giant 58-37 margin.

Things didn't get much better for Democrats in 2018 despite the blue wave: Walker carried the 7th 57-41 despite narrowly losing statewide, and even Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin lost it 52-48 while cruising to a 55-45 re-election victory. Given the trends in the 7th District, Tiffany will be favored in May, but as Nathan Gonzales put it after Duffy announced his resignation in August, it's "another potential special election for Republicans to mess up."

Mayoral

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Wisconsin's largest city held its nonpartisan primary on Tuesday, and incumbent Tom Barrett and Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor advanced to the April 7 general election. Barrett, who has served as mayor since 2004 and was Team Blue's nominee for governor in 2010 and 2012, took first with 50%, while Taylor beat self-funding Alderman Anthony Zielinski 31-16 for second.

Barrett has argued that the city has made progress during his tenure and that he can continue to improve things. But Taylor, who would be the city's first woman or African American mayor, is insisting that Barrett is "disconnected" from issues like race and jobs. Barrett held a massive $896,000 to $7,000 cash-on-hand lead over Taylor on Feb. 3.

Other Races

Milwaukee County, WI Executive: Milwaukee County also held its nonpartisan primary on Tuesday for the race to succeed retiring incumbent Chris Abele, and two Democratic state legislators advanced to the April 7 general election. State Sen. Chris Larson took first with 37%, and state Rep. David Crowley led Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb Sr., who doesn't affiliate with either major party, 34-17 for second place. The balance went to businesswoman Purnima Nath, a self-described conservative.

Both general election candidates have very different relationships with Abel, a Democrat who has often worked with the GOP legislature. Abel is supporting Crowley, who would be Milwaukee County's first black executive, and the incumbent's Leadership MKE group has spent $240,000 on ads for him. Larson, by contrast, challenged Abel in 2016 and lost 56-44. Larson held a $56,000 to $30,000 cash-on-hand lead over Crowley on Feb. 3.

Grab Bag

Demographics: We're about to enter a vexing new stage in the Democratic presidential primary: a whole lot of states having elections where we have little or no polling data. Knowing which states are demographically similar to each other can help fill in some of those data gaps, though, and David Jarman has put together a state similarity index using "nearest neighbor" analysis to guide that conversation. (In case you were wondering whether this year's candidates will play in Peoria, that's actually a good question, because Illinois is the nation's most demographically average state!

Morning Digest: GOP House candidate welcomes Trump endorsement. His district’s voters probably won’t

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.

Leading Off

TX-07: On Wednesday, Donald Trump endorsed Army veteran Westley Hunt, who is one of the national GOP’s favorite candidates, in the March 3 GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher. Hunt had already been running ads tying himself to Trump as well as Sen. Ted Cruz, who had already endorsed him, so he’ll certainly welcome this development.

However, Hunt is taking a big risk in the general election by embracing both the White House and Cruz in a West Houston seat that has been moving hard to the left in the Trump era. This seat swung from 60-39 Romney to 48.5-47.1 Clinton, and Beto O'Rourke beat Cruz here 53-46 last cycle. Fletcher also unseated longtime GOP incumbent John Culberson 52.5-47.5 in their very expensive 2018 race.

Hunt has been one of the GOP’s stronger House fundraisers this cycle, but he still faces a big cash disadvantage against Fletcher. The incumbent outraised him $545,000 to $343,000 during the final quarter of 2019, and she ended 2019 with a $1.8 million to $808,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Senate

AL-Sen: Mason-Dixon is out with a survey for the Alabama Daily News that finds Democratic Sen. Doug Jones trailing each of the three main GOP candidates in hypothetical general election matchups:

41-54 vs. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

42-51 vs. Rep. Bradley Byrne

42-50 vs. former college football coach Tommy Tuberville

The only other general election poll we've seen was a late December survey from the GOP firm JMC Analytics. That poll, which JMC said they conducted independent of any client, found Jones in better shape in this very red state but still trailing each of these Republicans by 4-7 points.

Campaign Action

Mason-Dixon is also the first independent pollster to take a look at the March 3 GOP primary since Sessions entered the race in November to reclaim his old Senate seat. They find Sessions at 31%, which is well below the majority of the vote he'd need to avoid a March 31 runoff, while Tuberville leads Byrne 29-17 for the second place spot.

Roy Moore, who lost this seat to Jones in 2017, is a distant fourth with just 5%. The release didn't name state Rep. Arnold Mooney, though his support may have been included in the 2% that backed Other.

The firm also tested Sessions in potential primary runoff marches and finds him beating Tuberville and Byrne 49-42 and 48-35, respectively. Those are hardly secure leads, though, especially since Sessions' intra-party rivals haven't spent many resources yet attacking him over his terrible time as Trump's attorney general. If Sessions does get forced into a runoff, though, his opponent will only have four weeks to win over the defeated candidates' supporters.

Byrne also dropped his own primary survey from Harper Polling a day before the Mason-Dixon numbers were released that shows him in better shape to advance to a runoff with Sessions. Harper finds Sessions ahead with the same 31% of the vote, but they show Byrne narrowly leading Tuberville 26-24 for second place. Moore is again far behind with 5%, while Mooney also went unmentioned.

The memo also includes the numbers for a previously unreleased mid-December poll to argue that Byrne has picked up support over the last two months. Sessions led that survey with 36%, while Tuberville outpaced the congressman 29-16. The memo did not include runoff numbers.

The only other GOP primary we've seen this year was a late January poll for Sessions from On Message, and it also showed Byrne and Tuberville locked in a close race for second place. It gave Sessions the lead with 43% as Byrne edged the former coach 22-21.

AZ-Sen: GOP Sen. Martha McSally made plenty of headlines last month when she dismissed longtime CNN reporter Manu Raju as "a liberal hack," and she continues her trip through MAGA Land in her first TV spot of the race. The narrator declares, "The Washington liberals are obsessed with President Trump. They wasted three years and millions of dollars trying to overturn the last election and steal the next one." The commercial then says that Democrat Mark Kelly "supported their impeachment sham."

ME-Sen: The outside group Maine Momentum has launched another ad that features several people taking GOP Sen. Susan Collins to task for voting for a massive tax break that's "hurting everyday Mainers."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: High Point University is out with a survey of North Carolina's March 3 primaries which includes questions about the Democratic Senate primary and the GOP gubernatorial contest.

High Point finds former state Sen. Cal Cunningham leading state Sen. Erica Smith 29-10 among registered voters in the race to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, while none of the other contenders break 5%. A recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling also found Cunningham ahead by that exact 29-10 spread, while no one else has released numbers here this year.

In the GOP primary to face Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, High Point finds Lt. Gov. Dan Forest leading state Rep. Holly Grange by a massive 54-10 margin. This is the first poll we've seen of this contest in 2020, but the results are quite plausible. Grange, who has never run statewide before, almost certainly started the campaign with low name recognition over the summer, and she hasn't raised much money to get her message out since then.

P.S. High Point also included versions of these matchups using likely voters instead of registered voters. However, both likely voter questions sampled fewer than 300 people, which is the minimum that Daily Kos Elections requires in order to write up a poll.

Gubernatorial

WA-Gov: On behalf of KING-TV, SurveyUSA is out with a poll of the August top-two primary. It gives Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee the lead with 39%, while conservative independent Tim Eyman leads Republic police chief Loren Culp 11-5 for the second place spot. Two other Republicans, state Sen. Phil Fortunato and developer Joshua Freed, are each at 4%.

SurveyUSA also takes a look at Inslee's approval rating and gives him a narrow 41-39 score, while another 20% say they aren't sure how they feel about the incumbent after seven years in office. This isn't the only poll that's given Inslee only a slightly positive rating, though. A January survey from the local firm Elway Research found that 40% of registered voters gave Inslee an excellent or good score while 34% rated him as poor and another 22% ranked him as "only fair." Morning Consult also found him with a 44-38 job approval for the final quarter of 2019.

Democrats have controlled the governor's office since 1985, and it's possible that a strong opponent could make the argument that it's time for a change and give Inslee a serious challenge. However, it remains to be seen if any of Inslee's opponents will have the resources to get their name out and put a serious fight this fall, especially with Donald Trump likely to drag down the ticket in this blue state.

The GOP candidate with the most money at the end of January was Freed, who had just $62,000 on-hand; Freed had previously loaned his campaign $500,000 only to repay it in January. The candidate texted the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner this week that he "decided recently that I didn't need that liability on my campaign books" and would "put that amount… or more.. in as a direct contribution." Washington candidates regularly file campaign finance reports, so we'll see soon if Freed self-funds again. For his part, Inslee ended last month with $1.7 million in the bank.

House

CA-53: On behalf of KGTV-TV and the San Diego Union Tribune, SurveyUSA is out with the first poll we've seen of the March 3 top-two primary for this safely blue open seat.

Former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign policy adviser Sara Jacobs, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran in the nearby 49th District last cycle, leads with 23% as one of the Republicans, pilot Chris Stoddard, takes the second place general election spot with 10%. Republican Famela Ramos and Democrat Georgette Gómez, who is president of the San Diego City Council, are at 5% each, while no one else breaks 4%.

Gómez, who is the only local elected official in the race, has the support of the state Democratic Party, but she ended December with a bit less money than Jacobs. Gómez actually outraised Jacobs $263,000 to $141,000, but Jacobs self-funded an additional $530,000 and held a $471,000 to $349,000 cash-on-hand lead. Two other Democrats, Marine veteran Janessa Goldbeck and UC San Diego professor Tom Wong, had just over $100,000 to spend.

GA-09: State Rep. Matt Gurtler announced this week that he was joining the GOP primary for this safely red open seat.

Gurtler was elected to the legislature in 2016 at the age of 27, and he quickly made a name for himself by opposing GOP Speaker David Ralston. Gurtler, who describes himself as an advocate for limited government, also developed a habit of voting against all manner of bills that came before him, and by May of 2018 he had racked up more "no" votes than anyone else in the 236-person legislature.

Ralston responded by backing a 2018 primary challenge to Gurtler, but the incumbent won 60-40. Gurtler was already facing another primary opponent when he decided to call off his re-election bid and run for Congress.

NC-11: On Wednesday, retiring Rep. Mark Meadows endorsed businesswoman and party activist Lynda Bennett in the crowded March 3 GOP primary to succeed him. However, there are plenty of reasons to think that Meadows was pulling for Bennett before this week.

Meadows announced his departure in December one day before the filing deadline and after it was too late for anyone running for another office to switch to this race. Meadows' decision came as a shock to everyone except for maybe Bennett, who set up a Facebook campaign page five hours before the congressman broke his own news. Meadows, though, insisted to Roll Call this week, "It was my original intent to stay neutral in the race. However my silence in the primary was being misused by some candidates to present [an] inaccurate picture for political gain."

Meadows' endorsement did seem to take one of the contenders off guard. Wayne King, who resigned as Meadows' deputy chief of staff to run here, said, "Meadows told me he was not endorsing anybody in the race" when they spoke just a few weeks ago.

NY-16: Middle school principal Jamaal Bowman received an endorsement this week from the Working Families Party, a small but influential party with ties to labor groups, in his June Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Eliot Engel. Engel has consistently received the WFP’s support in past contests.

Bowman is one of a few candidates challenging Engel for renomination in this safely blue seat, a diverse district that includes southern Westchester County and the northern Bronx, and he was already looking like the congressman’s main opponent before this week. Bowman raised $162,000 during the fourth quarter of 2019 and had $186,000 in the bank, while none of the other candidates had more than $25,000 to spend. Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, brought in $630,000 during this time, and he had $806,000 on-hand.

Bowman has been arguing that voters should oust Engel because he’s too moderate and too close to special interests. The challenger used his kickoff to go after Engel for taking donations from lobbyists and voting for the Iraq War.

TX-12: Veteran Rep. Kay Granger is up with her first negative TV spot against businessman Chris Putnam ahead of their March 3 GOP primary. The narrator begins by describing Granger’s conservative record and reminds the audience that she has Donald Trump’s endorsement. The narrator then calls Putnam “a millionaire who moved here four months ago” and says that “[i]nvestors sued his company for fraud. And he voted to raise property taxes twice.”

The primary for this safely red Fort Worth seat has attracted heavy spending in recent weeks, with the anti-tax Club for Growth and their allies airing ads against Granger while the establishment-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund is supporting her. However, Putnam himself didn’t bring in much money during the final months of 2019. Granger outraised him $414,000 to $71,000 during the fourth quarter, and she ended the year with a $774,000 to $407,000 cash-on-hand lead.

TX-22: A recently formed super PAC called Texans Coming Together has launched an ad campaign in support of nonprofit CEO Pierce Bush in next month’s GOP primary, though there’s no word on the size of the buy. The group’s spot, it won’t shock you to learn, refers to Donald Trump four times while not mentioning anyone from the candidate’s famous family once.

TX-28: Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar has launched a TV ad against immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros ahead of their March 3 Democratic primary showdown that could easily pass for a Republican campaign commercial.

The narrator begins by declaring, “Two candidates for Congress. One stands with families. One supports allowing minors to have an abortion without parents' knowledge.” The GOP frequently uses this line of attack against pro-choice candidates, and Cisneros responded to it in her fact-check of the spot by writing, “Jessica Cisneros supports allowing women to make their own healthcare decisions, not the government or politicians like Henry Cuellar.”

The commercial goes on to say that Cisneros is someone “who gets her money from outsiders, and who just moved here six months ago.” Cisneros, though, grew up in the Laredo area and even interned for none other than local congressman Henry Cuellar in 2014. The Cisneros camp also notes that, while Cuellar’s ad makes it sound like he’s being supported by local donors, he’s received more than half of his money from PACs and committees.

The commercial then takes one more page from the GOP playbook and insists that Cisneros, who backs the Green New Deal, wants to “shut down the oil and gas industry.”

WI-07: The special GOP primary is on Tuesday, and Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman reports that there’s been plenty of outside spending on behalf of both veteran Jason Church and state Sen. Tom Tiffany.

Church has received a total of about $1 million in support mostly from two groups, With Honor Fund and the newly formed Americans 4 Security PAC. Tiffany, meanwhile, has benefited from a total of $789,000 in spending largely from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth, two groups that are often on opposite sides in Republican primaries.

Both Church’s and Tiffany’s campaigns have spent comparable amounts, and since we haven’t seen any polls, there’s no indication which candidate is favored next week.

Morning Digest: Anti-impeachment Trump surrogate launches bid against GOP senator in Georgia special

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.

Leading Off

GA-Sen-B: On Wednesday morning, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins announced that he would challenge appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Republican, in this year’s special election. Collins is currently serving as one of Donald Trump’s designated surrogates during his impeachment trial, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that the congressman hopes to have Trump’s inner circle behind him.

Campaign Action

As we recently noted, Collins’ decision to run almost certainly crushes the GOP’s hopes of winning outright in November, at least under the state’s current election law. That's because all candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot, and if no one takes a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters—regardless of party—would be held in January of next year.

Collins’ run could be a mixed blessing for Democrats, though. While Team Blue would very much like a bloody intra-party battle between the Republicans, it’s possible that Loeffler and Collins could each secure enough support to lock Democrats out of a January runoff.

While there’s a chance that Democrats could instead secure both runoff spots and automatically flip this seat from red to blue, it’s not a good one. Businessman Matt Lieberman is the party’s only declared candidate so far, but former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver recently said that he planned to run while the Rev. Raphael Warnock is also reportedly going to get in soon.

This lineup would mean that Georgia’s Democratic voters would be dividing their support among a trio of candidates while Republicans would have just a pair to choose from—a scenario that would give the GOP a very real shot to take the top two spots in the all-party primary.

However, it’s possible that this special election law will change soon. Both Collins’ allies in the state legislature as well as Democrats are backing a bill that would require a partisan primary in May and a general election in November, which are the same rules that govern the state’s regularly scheduled Senate race. Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler, has said he’d veto this legislation if it makes it to his desk, though Democrats and Republicans could override him with a two-thirds supermajority.

While it remains to be seen when Loeffler and Collins will compete, it’s clear that the congressman is a serious threat to her chances. While Collins has made a name for himself with the Trump fans across the state by loudly defending the White House from impeachment, Loeffler had very little name recognition when she was appointed in December. A survey from the Democratic firm PPP taken just after Loeffler was selected in December even showed Collins destroying her 56-16 in a hypothetical GOP primary.

However, Loeffler very much has the resources to get her name out and attack Collins. The wealthy senator recently launched a $2.6 million ad campaign to introduce herself to voters and declare her fealty to Trump, and she’s reportedly pledged to spend a total of $20 million of her own money on this race. While Collins might be able to raise a serious amount of cash for this contest, he’s probably going to have a tough time bringing in anywhere near enough to match Loeffler’s self-funding.

Two prominent GOP groups are also making it clear that they’re going to support Loeffler. The NRSC, which endorsed the incumbent right after Kemp appointed her, put out a statement right after Collins announced that contained this angry, though rather ungrammatical, pair of phrases: “Doug Collins’ selfishness will hurt David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come.”

The Senate Leadership Fund, a well-funded super PAC run by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also blasted Collins as “selfish” and praised Loeffler as “a warrior for the President.” It remains to be seen how much each group will be willing to spend here in a cycle when control of the Senate is on the line, but the SLF said of Loeffler, “We’ll have her back if she needs us.”

The biggest player in GOP politics, though, has not yet taken sides. The White House reportedly made an unsuccessful push to convince Kemp to appoint Collins instead of Loeffler, and Trump no doubt is still happily watching the congressman’s frequent appearances on his behalf on Fox News. (It’s almost certainly no accident that Collins launched his campaign on Wednesday on Trump’s beloved “Fox & Friends.”)

However, while Trump may be inclined to support Collins, Loeffler is doing whatever she can to quickly get into his good graces. She may already be succeeding: Hours after Collins entered the contest, Trump singled Loeffler out at a bill signing and said, “Congratulations, Kelly. They really like you a lot. That’s what the word is.” McConnell, who is arguably both the White House and Loeffler’s most important ally, may also be able to persuade Trump to at least stay out of this contest.

Of course, there’s never any telling what Donald Trump will or won’t do, so both Loeffler and Collins may be kept in suspense for a long time to come.

4Q Fundraising

NH-Sen: Corky Messner (R): $51,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $1.07 million cash-on-hand

TX-Sen: John Cornyn (R-inc): $2.75 million raised, $12.1 million cash-on-hand

ME-02: Dale Crafts (R): $128,000 raised, additional $47,000 self-funded, $134,000 cash-on-hand

MI-03: Lynn Afendoulis (R): $112,000 raised

NV-04: Jim Marchant (R): $156,000 raised, $209,000 cash-on-hand

NY-24: Dana Balter (D): $205,000 raised, $220,000 cash-on-hand; Francis Conole (D): $250,000 cash-on-hand; Roger Misso (D): $120,000 raised, $130,000 cash-on-hand

WA-03: Carolyn Long (D): $498,000 raised

Senate

MA-Sen: Sen. Ed Markey picked up a Democratic primary endorsement this week from former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who was the party's 1988 presidential nominee. Dukakis left office in 1991, though he's occasionally been in the news in recent years as he's pushed for a rail link between Boston's two major train stations. You can stop leaving your leftover Thanksgiving turkey carcasses outside his house, though.

TX-Sen: Every poll we've seen of the March Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn has found a large plurality of voters undecided, and new surveys from the nonpartisan nonprofit Texas Lyceum and the progressive group Data for Progress each are no different.

Texas Lyceum's poll gives 2018 House nominee MJ Hegar the lead with 11% of the vote while state Sen. Royce West edges nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez 8-7 for the second spot in the likely runoff. Former Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards is just behind with 6 while a group of other candidates, including former Rep. Chris Bell and 2018 Senate candidate Sema Hernandez, take 5% each. The firm finds that 42% are undecided in a contest where no one has aired many ads yet.

Data for Progress' survey finds that more voters have chosen one of the candidates, but 34% are still undecided. The poll has Hegar ahead with 18%, while both West and Ramirez take 13%. Bell is at 8%, while none of the other contenders take more than 4%.

The survey also tests Hegar out in three different primary runoff scenarios:

32-33 vs. Ramirez 42-16 vs. Edwards 48-19 vs. West

On Tuesday, West also picked up an endorsement from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who leads Texas' largest city.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: On Wednesday, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth issued a stay preventing the committee trying to recall GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy from gathering signatures. Aarseth had taken this very action last week only to reverse himself the following day because that stay had been "inadvertently issued." However, Aarseth now says that the Alaska Supreme Court should rule on the constitutionality of the recall campaign before it is allowed to collect signatures to reach the ballot.

MO-Gov: Uniting Missouri, which is the main super PAC supporting GOP Gov. Mike Parson, is out with a poll from the Republican firm American Viewpoint that gives the incumbent a 54-36 lead over Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway. The only other survey of this contest we've seen over the last several months was a November PPP poll for the Democratic Governors Association that gave Parson a smaller 45-36 edge.

House

FL-26: While Donald Trump endorsed Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez last week, both former Miami-Dade County firefighters union president Omar Blanco and restaurateur Irina Vilariño say they plan to keep campaigning for the GOP nomination. However, neither of them looks like they'll be much of a threat to Giménez in the August primary to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Vilariño didn't even commit to staying in the race, since The Miami Herald writes that "she's evaluating her options." The paper writes that Vilariño raised just $70,000 during the most recent quarter, so she may not be able to put up much of a fight even if she opts to keep running.

Blanco also acknowledged that Giménez has harmed his fundraising, though he hasn't revealed how much he brought in during the last months of 2019. It may not matter much, though, since Blanco said that he didn't plan to go negative on Giménez, who is actually his boss: The mayor oversees the county fire department, where Blanco serves as a lieutenant.

GA-09: GOP Rep. Doug Collins' decision to run for the Senate opens up Georgia's 9th District in the rural northeastern part of the state. This seat backed Donald Trump 78-19, which was his best performance in any of the state's 14 congressional districts, and there's no question that whoever wins the GOP nod will prevail with ease in the general election.

The primary will take place in mid-May, and there would be a runoff in July if no one takes a majority of the vote. The filing deadline is March 6, so potential candidates have about five weeks to decide whether or not to run.

State Sen. John Wilkinson didn't need anywhere near that long to make up his mind, though, and he entered the race right after Collins announced that he was leaving to run for the Senate. Wilkinson has represented the 50th Senate District, which makes up about a quarter of this seat, since late 2011, and he's spent the last eight years as chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

Several other Republicans are eyeing this contest, including one familiar name. Former 10th District Rep. Paul Broun confirmed that he was considering a comeback here, and Lauren Souther of the local news site Fetch Your News writes that he "indicated" that he'd decide this week. Broun was elected to the House in a 2007 special election, and he quickly emerged as the go-to guy for far-right quips, including his infamous 2012 proclamation that "[a]ll that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell."

It was Broun's career that soon descended into the pit of hell, though. In 2014, Broun gave up his seat representing the neighboring 10th District to run for an open Senate seat, but he finished a weak fifth in the primary with just 10% of the vote. Two years later, Broun relocated to the 9th District and challenged Collins for renomination, but the former congressman failed to raise much money and lost by a lopsided 61-22 margin.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner is also talking about running, and he told Fetch Your News on Wednesday that he would decide in "the next few days." Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley called a congressional race "an intriguing possibility" and said he hadn't decided anything yet, but he also said he was very happy at his current post. In addition, Fetch Your News writes that fellow state Rep. Matt Gurtler is reportedly mulling it over, but Gurtler didn't respond for comment. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentioned fellow state Rep. Emory Dunahoo as a possibility, though there's no word on his interest.

Another group of Republicans sounds unlikely to run, though they didn't outright say no. Conservative radio host Martha Zoller, who lost the 2012 open seat primary runoff to Collins 55-45, said, "I am certainly going to consider running for this position, but I, at this time, am leaning toward not running."

Chris Riley, a longtime aide to former Gov. Nathan Deal, said Tuesday that, while he wasn't saying no, he was focused on "helping our friends who are seriously considering and helped make the Deal Administration successful." State Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller sounded even less enthusiastic, and he told the AJC that "the likelihood of me running for Congress is very low."

By contrast, Enotah Judicial Circuit Court Judge Stan Gunter and state Sen. Steve Gooch each made it clear that they would sit this race out.

MD-07: Former state Democratic Party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is out with her first TV ad ahead of Tuesday's crowded special primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Rockeymoore Cummings begins by telling the audience, "Elijah worked hard, especially for children and youth. I know because I was right there with him." The candidate continues, "Together, we worked for social and economic justice, and we were in the trenches side by side fighting for Baltimore." Rockeymoore Cummings then says she's running "to continue that fight—for more affordable healthcare and prescription drugs, and an end to the gun violence and trauma that is wiping out a generation of black talent."

NC-11: GOP state Sen. Jim Davis uses his first TV spot for the crowded March GOP primary for this open seat in Appalachian North Carolina to express his hatred for Mondays liberals. Davis, who is situated between a table with a huge plate of cheeseburgers and a black backdrop, begins the commercial wielding a handgun in what could easily be mistaken for an ad for the world's most terrifying fast-food restaurant.

But of course, this is really a political spot, and Davis continues by loading his weapon and telling the audience that liberals want to make his nine-millimeter gun illegal. He then drags his platter of burgers to him and repeats one of the GOP's favorite Trump-era lies by saying that liberals also want to outlaw cheeseburgers. That idea comes from conservatives' deliberate misreading of the Green New Deal, and a similar falsehood has already appeared in ads attacking Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan.

Davis then goes on a rant about how the left "want[s] to tell us how to live, how to worship, even how to eat." Davis never fires his gun during the spot, but he does end it by taking a hardy bite out of Chekov's cheeseburger. Wisely, though, the senator leaves the other dozen or so patties on the table uneaten.

NY-15: End Citizens United has endorsed New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres in the crowded Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. José Serrano.

NY-22: Freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi uses his first TV spot of the cycle to stress how he's worked across party lines in Congress. The commercial features several clips of news people talking about his accomplishments, including how he got four bills signed by Donald Trump. The ad does not mention the conservative TV commercials that have already run here attacking the congressman, though Brindisi told Politico he was going on the air early "to set the record straight."

TX-07: Army veteran Wesley Hunt, who is the national GOP's favored candidate in the March primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, is out with a TV spot where he declares that Donald Trump is right to call drug cartels "terrorist organizations." The candidate calls for building the border wall before the narrator notes that Hunt has the endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz.

TX-22: Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star CEO Pierce Bush is out with a GOP primary ad starring his wife, Sarahbeth Bush. She tells the audience how her father developed a drug addiction when she was 10 and that "[d]rugs smuggled across the border ruin lives and shatter families." Sarahbeth Bush then praises the candidate as someone who understands the border crisis.

WA-10: Democratic state Rep. Beth Doglio, who'd previously said she'd decide on whether to seek Washington's open 10th Congressional District after the legislature's session ends on March 12, has now filed paperwork to create a campaign committee with the FEC. Several notable Democrats are already running, and a number of others are considering. However, no prominent Republicans have expressed interest in seeking this seat, which voted 51-40 for Hillary Clinton.

Legislative

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's four special elections:

TX-HD-28: Republican Gary Gates defeated Democrat Eliz Markowitz 58-42 to hold this suburban Houston district for his party. The result is disappointing for Democrats, who aggressively targeted this race as part of a larger effort to flip the Texas House later this year, as Markowitz's performance in this district lagged behind Hillary Clinton's 10-point loss in 2016 and Beto O'Rourke's narrow 3-point loss in 2018.

Democrats will now ask themselves why Markowitz fell well short of what the fundamentals of this district would have augured. One key reason may have been the wealthy Gates' heavy self-funding, which totaled at least $1.5 million. In addition, younger voters and Latinos, who are among Democrats' most important constituencies in Texas, are less apt to turn out for an unusually timed special election as opposed to a November general election.

Markowitz and Gates will likely face off again in the fall, but one important reminder for Democrats is this district is not a prerequisite for taking the state House. The Texas Democratic Party recently ranked this district as its 16th-most attractive pickup opportunity on an initial target list of 22 seats, ranked by O'Rourke's 2018 margins.

TX-HD-100: Democrat Lorraine Birabil defeated fellow party member James Armstrong 66-34 to hold this deep blue Dallas seat.

TX-HD-148: Democrat Anna Eastman defeated Republican Luis LaRotta 65-35 to hold this seat for her party. These three special elections in Texas return this chamber to full strength, with Republicans in control 83-67.

GA-HD-171: Republican Joe Campbell took 58% of the vote in this three-way race to avoid a runoff and hold this south Georgia seat for the GOP. Democrat Jewell Howard was the runner-up with 33%, while Republican Tommy Akridge rounded out the voting with 8%.

This result moves the makeup of the Georgia state House to 105-74 in favor of Republicans with one seat vacant.