Morning Digest: Four Trump-backed candidates for governor haven't aired a single TV ad yet

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. Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast Embedded Content Leading Off ● Governors: NBC, citing data from AdImpact, reports that Democrats have dwarfed their GOP rivals in Michigan $16.5 million to $924,000 in ad spending for the general election for governor, with Republican nominee Tudor Dixon responsible for just $25,000. A separate study by the Wesleyan Media Project has also found that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her allies ran over 4,600 commercials in the time between Sept. 5 and Sept. 18 while the Republicans aired all of 19 spots. But Dixon, who has not run a single TV ad since her primary win nearly two months ago, doesn't see this as a problem at all. "Isn't that sad that Democrats have to spend so much money?" she asked when a reporter inquired if she was perturbed by the lack of outside support for her campaign. Dixon, who badly trails Whitmer in most recent polls, may be getting some help down the line because the RGA still has nearly $4 million reserved for her. However, that's just a fraction of the $24 million that NBC says Whitmer and her backers have booked for the remainder of the campaign. Michigan Families United, which is funded by the DeVos family, could also step in to bail out Dixon, but so far it has just $330,000 reserved. Dixon, though, isn't the only GOP nominee for governor in dire straits financially. The GOP firm Medium Buying said on Thursday that three others also haven't run any TV ads for the general election: Illinois' Darren Bailey, Maryland's Dan Cox, and Pennsylvania's Doug Mastriano. (All four were endorsed by Trump before their primaries.) Minnesota Republican Scott Jensen isn't exactly a member of that sorry clique, but he's nonetheless facing a massive ad deficit in his battle to take down Democratic Gov. Tim Walz: According to Wesleyan, Democrats were responsible for a whopping 87% of the commercials that aired for this race in the two weeks it studied. A major reason things are so lopsided is that the DGA affiliate Alliance for a Better Minnesota has spent nearly $9 million here, while Jensen has yet to get any outside help. A conservative group, the Foundation for Minnesota's Future, announced Monday that it would enter the fray, but so far, we haven't gotten any information about how much it plans to spend or seen any of its ads. There is one feeble fundraiser that Republicans are, however, not giving up on: Kari Lake, a Trump-backed election denier who won the early August primary over opposition from termed-out incumbent Doug Ducey, who happens to chair the RGA. Despite his earlier resistance to Lake's candidacy, Axios reports that Ducey's organization recently engaged in some creative reshuffling to maximize its investment. The committee in fact canceled $6.5 million it had reserved to help Lake but then put that money toward a joint ad campaign from Lake and the Yuma County Republican Party. RGA political director J.P. Twist explained to Axios that this coordinated campaign can buy about $1 million worth of ads more than the group's independent effort because of the more favorable advertising rates available to candidates. But like many of her compatriots in other states, Lake herself had been off the airwaves since the primary. As a result, Wesleyan says that Democrat Katie Hobbs and her allies had aired 78% of the spots from Sept. 5 to Sept. 18. Lake, though, made use of her cash infusion to go on the air this week with a biographical commercial in which she touted her humble upbringing. Until that spot went up, all the RGA's commercials had attacked Hobbs without mentioning Lake, while Democrats have run both positive and negative ads. However, that's now changed, and Lake and the Yuma County GOP are airing spots contrasting the two on immigration and taxes. P.S. Axios also looked into why the RGA is partnering with the GOP in Yuma County—a relatively small county in the state's southwestern corner—instead of the state party. Twist merely told Axios that Yuma was a "better fit," but he was far more vocal last year when state party chair Kelli Ward won another term after two dysfunctional years in charge. "And with that, the AZGOP will have no significant role in '22," he tweeted after he learned the two-time failed Senate candidate had prevailed, adding, "No other option but to work with others. We've been here before. No big deal." Ward's organization denied there was any friction between it and its would-be allies, though it snipped that its donors "value the fact that large percentages of their donor dollars do not go into the pockets of political consultants." Hobbs, by contrast, has been airing ads in coordination with the Arizona Democratic Party. Senate ● GA-Sen: Democratic Se

Morning Digest: Four Trump-backed candidates for governor haven't aired a single TV ad yet

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.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

Governors: NBC, citing data from AdImpact, reports that Democrats have dwarfed their GOP rivals in Michigan $16.5 million to $924,000 in ad spending for the general election for governor, with Republican nominee Tudor Dixon responsible for just $25,000. A separate study by the Wesleyan Media Project has also found that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her allies ran over 4,600 commercials in the time between Sept. 5 and Sept. 18 while the Republicans aired all of 19 spots.

But Dixon, who has not run a single TV ad since her primary win nearly two months ago, doesn't see this as a problem at all. "Isn't that sad that Democrats have to spend so much money?" she asked when a reporter inquired if she was perturbed by the lack of outside support for her campaign.

Dixon, who badly trails Whitmer in most recent polls, may be getting some help down the line because the RGA still has nearly $4 million reserved for her. However, that's just a fraction of the $24 million that NBC says Whitmer and her backers have booked for the remainder of the campaign. Michigan Families United, which is funded by the DeVos family, could also step in to bail out Dixon, but so far it has just $330,000 reserved.

Dixon, though, isn't the only GOP nominee for governor in dire straits financially. The GOP firm Medium Buying said on Thursday that three others also haven't run any TV ads for the general election: Illinois' Darren Bailey, Maryland's Dan Cox, and Pennsylvania's Doug Mastriano. (All four were endorsed by Trump before their primaries.)

Minnesota Republican Scott Jensen isn't exactly a member of that sorry clique, but he's nonetheless facing a massive ad deficit in his battle to take down Democratic Gov. Tim Walz: According to Wesleyan, Democrats were responsible for a whopping 87% of the commercials that aired for this race in the two weeks it studied.

A major reason things are so lopsided is that the DGA affiliate Alliance for a Better Minnesota has spent nearly $9 million here, while Jensen has yet to get any outside help. A conservative group, the Foundation for Minnesota's Future, announced Monday that it would enter the fray, but so far, we haven't gotten any information about how much it plans to spend or seen any of its ads.

There is one feeble fundraiser that Republicans are, however, not giving up on: Kari Lake, a Trump-backed election denier who won the early August primary over opposition from termed-out incumbent Doug Ducey, who happens to chair the RGA. Despite his earlier resistance to Lake's candidacy, Axios reports that Ducey's organization recently engaged in some creative reshuffling to maximize its investment.

The committee in fact canceled $6.5 million it had reserved to help Lake but then put that money toward a joint ad campaign from Lake and the Yuma County Republican Party. RGA political director J.P. Twist explained to Axios that this coordinated campaign can buy about $1 million worth of ads more than the group's independent effort because of the more favorable advertising rates available to candidates.

But like many of her compatriots in other states, Lake herself had been off the airwaves since the primary. As a result, Wesleyan says that Democrat Katie Hobbs and her allies had aired 78% of the spots from Sept. 5 to Sept. 18. Lake, though, made use of her cash infusion to go on the air this week with a biographical commercial in which she touted her humble upbringing.

Until that spot went up, all the RGA's commercials had attacked Hobbs without mentioning Lake, while Democrats have run both positive and negative ads. However, that's now changed, and Lake and the Yuma County GOP are airing spots contrasting the two on immigration and taxes.

P.S. Axios also looked into why the RGA is partnering with the GOP in Yuma County—a relatively small county in the state's southwestern corner—instead of the state party. Twist merely told Axios that Yuma was a "better fit," but he was far more vocal last year when state party chair Kelli Ward won another term after two dysfunctional years in charge. "And with that, the AZGOP will have no significant role in '22," he tweeted after he learned the two-time failed Senate candidate had prevailed, adding, "No other option but to work with others. We've been here before. No big deal."

Ward's organization denied there was any friction between it and its would-be allies, though it snipped that its donors "value the fact that large percentages of their donor dollars do not go into the pockets of political consultants." Hobbs, by contrast, has been airing ads in coordination with the Arizona Democratic Party.

Senate

GA-Sen: Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock's newest ad makes use of a recent New York Times report detailing how there's "scant evidence" that Republican Herschel Walker made good on his pledges to donate 15% of his business profits to charity. The narrator intones, "The charities have no record or recollection of any gifts from Herschel Walker's company in the last decade."

Meanwhile, Warnock's allies at Senate Majority PAC are airing another commercial detailing the many threats the Republican has made against his ex-wife and others. The spot also cites a July story from the Daily Beast describing how Walker's campaign aides "fear his mood swings and instability" to make the case that he hasn't changed.

NH-Sen: Senate Majority PAC's opening general election ad, which is part of a $3.7 million buy, uses audio of Republican Don Bolduc proclaiming his opposition to abortion rights, including a recording of him saying, "Get over it." That last bit comes from a recent WMUR interview where Bolduc dismissed Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan's focus on abortion by saying:

"She just wants to hang on with dear life. Well, guess what? Your views are not consistent with the average Granite Stater, number one. Number two, get over it. This is about the economy, fiscal responsibility and the safety and security of this nation, which you cannot defend."  

It's Bolduc, though, who hasn't been defending himself on the airwaves, as the GOP firm Medium Buying relays that he's one of two prominent Republican Senate candidates who isn't running any TV ads for the general election. (The other is Arizona's Blake Masters.) National Republicans are spending millions to attack Hassan, but so far, they don't seem interested in promoting a positive message about Bolduc.

Polls:

GA-Sen: Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) for Fox News: Raphael Warnock (D-inc): 46, Herschel Walker (R): 41 (July: 46-42 Warnock)

NC-Sen: Meredith College: Cheri Beasley (D): 41, Ted Budd (R): 41

NC-Sen: Cygnal (R) for the John Locke Foundation: Beasley (D): 44, Budd (R): 44 (Aug.: 42-42 tie)

NH-Sen: Suffolk University for the Boston Globe: Maggie Hassan (D-inc): 50, Don Bolduc (R): 41, Jeremy Kauffman (L): 3

PA-Sen: Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) for Fox News: John Fetterman (D): 45, Mehmet Oz (R): 41, Everett Stern (I): 3 (July: 47-36 Fetterman)

PA-Sen: Franklin and Marshall College: Fetterman (D): 45, Oz (R): 42 (Aug. 45-36 Fetterman)

WI-Sen: Fabrizio Ward (R) and Impact Research (D) for the AARP: Ron Johnson (R-inc): 51, Mandela Barnes (D): 46

NC-Sen: The Meredith College poll appears to have asked many questions before the horserace, including whether they agreed that "Women should worry less about their rights and more about becoming good wives and mothers" (respondents said no by a 18-72 margin) and how they felt about the statement "I often start arguments" (they also disagreed 15-83).  

PA-Sen: While political observers have spent weeks speculating that the GOP's massive assault on Fetterman's support for criminal justice reform has made the race closer, these are some of the first pollsters to actually go back into the field and find Oz making up ground since their last surveys. No one has released any numbers yet, though, showing anything but a Fetterman lead.

WI-Sen: This is the best result anyone has found for Johnson so far.

Governors

RI-Gov: Ashley Kalus is borrowing a tactic that a few other Republicans have tried this year by airing an ad insisting that her election wouldn't impact abortion rights in her state. "Abortion was codified into our state law in 2019," says Kalus, who doesn't say how she feels about the legislation. Instead, she insists that Democratic Gov. Dan McKee is "lying" because he's "afraid of losing."

McKee, meanwhile, is running a spot touting his executive order protecting people seeking abortions from out of state before playing footage of Kalus thrice describing herself as "pro-life." The narrator then says of the Republican nominee, who earlier this year named Florida's governor as the politician she most admires, "And if she continues to follow the lead of her idols, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, as governor she'd limit abortion access in Rhode Island and oppose a woman's freedom to choose."    

TX-Gov: NBC reports that the Democratic group Coulda Been Worse has now spent or reserved $13 million to attack Gov. Greg Abbott and his fellow Republicans. Its newest spot faults Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton over last year's devastating blackout, arguing they ignored "years of warnings about the Texas Power Grid" and "warnings of a massive winter storm."

Polls:

GA-Gov: Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) for Fox News: Brian Kemp (R-inc): 50, Stacey Abrams (D): 43 (July: 47-44 Kemp)

NH-Gov: Suffolk University for the Boston Globe: Chris Sununu (R-inc): 53, Tom Sherman (D): 36

PA-Gov: Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) for Fox News: Josh Shapiro (D): 51, Doug Mastriano (R): 40 (July: 50-40 Shapiro)

PA-Gov: Franklin and Marshall College: Shapiro (D): 51, Mastriano (R): 37 (Aug.: 44-33 Shapiro)

WI-Gov: Fabrizio Ward (R) and Impact Research (D) for the AARP: Tim Michels (R): 50, Tony Evers (D-inc): 47

WI-Gov: The AARP poll also finds Michels doing better than anyone else has found so far.

House

CA-26: Republican Matt Jacobs and the NRCC have publicized a mid-September survey from OnMessage Inc. that shows him trailing Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley only 48-43 in a race that has attracted little attention so far. This constituency, which contains most of Ventura County, would have supported Biden by a wide 59-39 margin, though that's a decrease from his 61-36 showing in the existing 26th.

Ventura County, which is located northwest of Los Angeles, was solidly red turf for decades, and it remained friendly to Republicans downballot in the 1990s and 2000s even as voters became more open to backing Democratic presidential candidates. Brownley, though, won a competitive 2012 race by a 53-47 margin as Obama was carrying the seat 54-44, and she narrowly hung on during the 2014 GOP wave.

Ventura County, though, only became more Democratic during the Trump era, and Brownley prevailed with ease during her next three campaigns against weak foes. It remains to be seen if the NRCC will put its money where its mouth is now and test how entrenched she is in the new 26th, which is a little less than a quarter new to her.

CA-47: NBC reports that the size of the buy for the Club for Growth's recent offensive against Democratic Rep. Katie Porter is $1.2 million, which is considerably more than the $800,000 the Congressional Leadership Fund has deployed so far.

NC-13: What do you do when you're a North Carolina congressional candidate facing scrutiny about your weak ties to the area you want to represent? If you're Republican Bo Hines, you shoot a commercial in Indiana, of course!

As WRAL reports, Hines' latest offering stars his grandfather, Rich Weisman, standing with the candidate in a field of wheat and telling the audience, "We farmed these acres together, picking stones, pulling stumps and learning the lessons of the land." Viewers, though, could be forgiven for assuming that this land is located in North Carolina, especially since Weisman talks about how his grandson believes in "North Carolina values."

National Republicans, meanwhile, are running their own false ads against Democrat Wiley Nickel by accusing him of representing defendants accused of "sex crimes including rape," "child pornography," "sex offender registry violations," and "taking indecent liberties with a child." But not only do these commercials engage in one of our least favorite tactics of attacking lawyers for providing those accused of crimes with their constitutional right to legal representation, Nickel's campaign told The News & Observer that he has never defended anyone from any of these charges.

The paper explains that Nickel's firm advertises that anyone accused of "high-level felonies" should contact his legal partner. However, the site advertises that Nickel himself "devotes the majority of his practice to the areas of criminal law, expungements, traffic tickets and DMV issues."  

NE-02: Republican Rep. Don Bacon said Thursday that he'd undergone an emergency appendectomy the previous night, a procedure he described as a "home run." The congressman continued, "I'm looking forward to a full recovery and quickly returning to work," and said he hoped to be released from the hospital later in the day.

OH-09: The Associated Press revealed Wednesday that military records provide a very different account of why Republican J.R. Majewski was unable to re-enlist in the Air Force, a story that comes a week after the AP reported that the candidate lied about serving in Afghanistan. The QAnon ally has claimed he was demoted after getting into a "brawl" in 2001, but records say he was instead punished for drunk driving on an air base.

While Majewski has continued to insist that he did serve in Afghanistan despite all available evidence, he responded to this newest revelation by admitting he was indeed demoted for driving under the influence. The Republican, though, did not address why he'd given a different story before being called out, instead saying, "This mistake is now more than 20 years old."

Majewski, who is trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, continued, "I'm sure we've all done something as young adults that we look back on and wonder 'what was I thinking?' and I'm sure our parents and grandparents share these sentiments." Let's just say this response is unlikely to get the NRCC to question what it was thinking when it canceled its entire $960,000 reservation last week.

OH-13: The Congressional Leadership Fund's latest commercial against Democrat Emilia Sykes makes use of actual records from 911 calls to try to portray her as someone whose plan "would release abusers within 72 hours." Sykes has responded to weeks of similar ads by saying that the GOP is deliberately twisting the bipartisan bail reform bill she pushed while she was in the state House.

The Columbus Dispatch writes that this 2021 legislation, which CLF cites in its ad, "would require courts to release defendants on a personal promise to return unless there is a safety risk or a flight risk." It adds that it also "would require courts to consider the ability to pay when setting the bond amounts." And while CLF makes it sound like this plan would lead to the automatic release of anyone accused of abuse, even Fox News notes that it "would give judges the authority to decide whether to allow people accused of crimes to wait at home instead of behind bars based on the danger they pose to the public, instead of whether they can afford to pay cash bail." While the bill was co-authored by a Republican, it has yet to pass either chamber of the GOP-dominated legislature.

TX-28: The NRCC is running ads in English and Spanish focused on the FBI raid on Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar's home and campaign headquarters that took place in January, which makes this the first time anyone has run a commercial on this topic since he won renomination months later. Back in April, the congressman's attorney said that he'd been informed by federal authorities that Cuellar "is not a target of this investigation" into government and business ties with Azerbaijan, and there have been no public developments since then.  

Attorneys General

AZ-AG, AZ-SoS: The progressive group End Citizens United has released a survey from the Democratic firm GSG that finds its endorsed candidates locked in tight races against two election deniers. Democrat Kris Mayes ties Republican Abraham Hamadeh 45-45 for attorney general, while Democrat Adrian Fontes edges out QAnon supporter Mark Finchem 46-44 for secretary of state.

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