Morning Digest: Another political abyss beckons to Mark Sanford, and he doesn’t seem to care

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SC-01: In a must-read piece, Politico’s Tim Alberta checks in with South Carolina GOP Rep. Mark Sanford, our favorite real estate developer-turned political neophyte-turned congressman-turned governor-turned national conservative hero-turned national punch line-turned censured but not impeached governor-turned disgraced former governor-turned comeback seeker-turned guy who was about to lose a safely red seat-turned guy who beat Stephen Colbert’s sister-turned congressman-turned Trump skeptic. So how is Sanford doing these days? Well, the Politico Magazine article is titled “I’m a Dead Man Walking.”

After his 2013 special election win in the Charleston-based 1st District against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, Sanford won his primary and re-election the next year without any major opposition. But in 2016, Sanford only beat then-state Rep. Jenny Horne 56-44 in the primary, even though Horne barely spent anything against him. Sanford himself barely dipped into his warchest, telling Alberta

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Morning Digest: Big-money advertisers in House races get in their last licks before Tuesday

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Ad Reservations: The final edition of our House ad reservations tracker is live. (We’re not crying, you’re crying.) In it, we follow TV and radio bookings made by the four largest outside groups that spend on House races: the DCCC and House Majority PAC for Democrats, and the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund for Republicans. Here are the highlights and lowlights:

AZ-01: If Republican Paul Babeu was hoping that GOP outside groups would come to his aid in the final days of the race, he’s going to be disappointed. The NRCC did a small $52,000 joint buy with Babeu weeks ago, but never returned to the airwaves, and the Congressional Leadership Fund never got involved here either. While Romney won this seat 50-48, Babeu has an awful past, and it seems that D.C. Republicans just decided he wasn’t going to defeat

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Morning Digest: Missouri’s Senate race becomes the unlikeliest tossup of 2016

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MO-Sen: Mason-Dixon is out with one of the very few public polls we’ve seen lately of the Missouri Senate race, and they show Republican Sen. Roy Blunt edging Democrat Jason Kander 47-46. With so little polling, though, it’s tough to know what’s going on in the Show Me State, but each party is acting like it’s close. Roll Call recently reported that unnamed officials from both sides agree the contest is tight, and that neither knows what will happen.

Outside groups from each party are also continuing to spend heavily here. Some Democrats also privately told Roll Call that they’re afraid that the undecideds are disproportionately conservative Trump supporters who will end up backing Blunt in the end. However, Republicans aren’t acting confident that the undecideds will sweep Blunt to a second term.

Kander, an Afghanistan veteran who currently serves as Missouri’s secretary of

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Morning Digest: Joe Arpaio could lose his election and his freedom

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Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff: It’s hard to believe, but Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s decades-long reign of terror might finally come to an end next month. According to a new poll from the Behavior Research Center, conducted on behalf of several local Arizona media outlets, Arpaio trails his Democratic challenger, former Phoenix police sergeant Paul Penzone, by an astounding 15-point margin, 46-31.

And it’s not just this one poll. A week ago, a survey from a Republican pollster found Penzone beating Arpaio 51-41, while several prior polls have also had Penzone ahead. Only an old Arpaio internal from back in August took the opposite view, and Republicans haven’t coughed up any new polling since then.

What’s more, not only could Arpaio lose re-election, he might also soon lose his freedom: On Monday, federal prosecutors charged Arpaio with criminal contempt of court for violating an agreement

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Morning Digest: A new poll shows Missouri’s Senate race the closest it’s ever been

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MO-Sen, MO-Gov: There have been lots of rumors floating around of internal polls showing Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander defeating Republican Sen. Roy Blunt in Missouri’s Senate race, but no public poll had shown that, and that’s still the case—but that doesn’t mean Republicans should relax. On Wednesday, Monmouth returned to the Show Me State, and they find Blunt leading 46-44 against Kander. But while Blunt still has the edge, Kander’s getting closer, as Monmouth saw a 48-43 Blunt advantage in August. In fact, this is the closest we’ve ever seen the race in a reliable public poll.

On the other hand, the gubernatorial race has grown tighter since the summer. Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster led Republican Eric Greitens 51-40 at the time, but now Monmouth sees Koster leading by only 46-43. Missouri Democrats have had some success at retaining the governor’s chair

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Morning Digest: Darrell Issa, progressive enemy no. 1, is looking very vulnerable

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CA-49: Six months ago, retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate was just a Some Dude challenging Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the wealthiest member of Congress. But national Democrats took notice when Applegate held Issa to just a 51-45 win in California’s June top-two primary. Both Applegate and the DCCC proceeded to release polls showing the Democrat narrowly trailing Issa and on Thursday, the D-Trip dropped a survey showing Applegate ahead 46-42. Issa released his own poll in early September showing himself leading 52-38, but Issa isn’t acting like an incumbent with nothing to worry about. The congressman has started running attack ads, and he loudly whined about an Applegate commercial against him, even threatening to sue his opponent.

Until recently, we were still skeptical about Applegate’s chances. For all their talk about beating Issa, the DCCC wasn’t spending much money to help their candidate.

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Morning Digest: Maggie Hassan wants to make Kelly Ayotte pay for calling Trump a role model for kids

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NH-Sen: Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte is locked in a tough re-election fight, but she’s largely been able to put some much-needed distance between her and Donald Trump. While the Daily Kos Elections polling average gives Ayotte just a 46-45 lead over Democrat Maggie Hassan, Hillary Clinton has a 46-40 edge in New Hampshire. But Ayotte complicated things at a debate Monday when, after she was asked whether she would cite Trump as a role model for children, she replied, “I think that certainly there are many role models that we have. I believe he can serve as president, so absolutely, I would do that.” Hassan is now out with a commercial that aims to make Ayotte eat her words.

Like Clinton, Hassan understands that there’s no one better equipped to make the case against Donald Trump than Donald Trump. Hassan’s spot starts with that

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Morning Digest: Oregon Republican says educated women can’t be domestic violence victims

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OR-Gov: Republican Bud Pierce needed a lot to go right this year if he wanted to unseat Gov. Kate Brown in Democratic-leaning Oregon. But it’s just hard to sum up how awful Pierce’s comments at a Friday debate were. After Brown disclosed that she had been a victim of domestic violence, Pierce declared, “a woman that has a great education and training and a great job is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men, women or anyone.” Pierce was roundly booed by the audience, and rightly so.

Pierce soon issued a non-apology statement. While he said that “I know that any women, regardless of economic status, can be subject to domestic violence and sexual abuse,” he finished by saying, “I apologize to Governor Brown and anyone else who may taken my comments the wrong way.” In other words, sorry to

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Morning Digest: Deborah Ross fires back hard against GOP claims she opposed sex-offender registry

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NC-Sen: Well, we knew this would happen—it was only a question of when: Republicans have finally started attacking Democrat Deborah Ross in earnest over her advocacy as head of the North Carolina ACLU, a post she left 14 years ago. In particular, new ads from both GOP Sen. Richard Burr and the Senate Leadership Fund slam Ross for a memo she wrote in the mid-1990s raising questions about the state’s sex offender registry. Burr’s spot features a Marine Corps veteran and rape survivor who says Ross “wants to protect sexual predators over victims.” The SLF ad, meanwhile, castigates Ross for putting her “left-wing ideas ahead of our families’ safety” and claims Ross “repeatedly objected to making the sex-offender database publicly available.”

Those certainly seem like they could be devastating lines of attack, but at least we know that Ross was completely prepared

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Morning Digest: Ro Khanna’s campaign manager resigns after Mike Honda accuses him of data theft

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CA-17: In a stunning turn of events on Thursday, Rep. Mike Honda sued the campaign of his opponent, fellow Democrat Ro Khanna. Honda alleged that Khanna campaign manager, Brian Parvizshahi, illegally accessed private information about Honda’s donors—and within hours, Parvizshahi resigned.

According to Honda’s complaint, Parvizshahi served as an intern in 2012 for a fundraising consultant who worked for Honda. Parvizshahi quit the gig after just a month but, says Honda, he retained access to a set of private Dropbox folders that contained Honda contributor data, and he continued to view those files even after he began working for Khanna in 2014. The lawsuit also alleges that during his internship, Parvizshahi signed a nondisclosure agreement that made it clear that he was to treat this type of data as “strictly confidential.” Honda’s campaign says it began to suspect something was awry when

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Morning Digest: Top groups have reserved $157 million in TV and radio time for House races

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Ad Reservations: Thanks to a Democratic source who tracks media buys, we’ve put together a comprehensive new chart of all ad reservations for the four biggest groups that work on House races: the DCCC and House Majority PAC for Democrats, and the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund for Republicans. (HMP and CLF both have close ties to their respective party leadership and can be thought of as the “official unofficial” House super PACs for each side.)

Until now, we’d been relying on media reports and press releases to keep track of these reservations, but our information has been incomplete and sometimes contradictory. That’s because its availability depends on the skill of reporters and the forthcomingness of PACs and party organizations—qualities that are often in short supply. This has been especially true on the Republican side, which has generally been very reticent to share

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Morning Digest: National Democrats make a big bet on Jason Kander in the Missouri Senate race

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MO-Sen: Democrats must like what they’re seeing in the Show Me State. On Tuesday, the DSCC reserved $1.5 million to help Jason Kander against Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, making this the first major ad buy from an outside Democratic group. And on Friday, Politico reported that the DSCC booked an additional $2 million in ad time for this contest. They aren’t the only groups aiding Kander here: In the last week, End Citizens United launched a $770,000 ad campaign, while VoteVets dropped $400,000. National Democrats seem more sanguine about Missouri than other red-state contests like Arizona, and their new financial investment is proof of that sentiment.

Republicans, sensing danger, have also started spending serious money here. The Senate Leadership Fund reserved $2.5 million all the way back in June, though it’s only now begun to air ads. The NRA jumped in more recently

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Morning Digest: Planned Parenthood shows Democrats how to turn Trump into a GOP anvil

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NH-Sen: Now this is how Democrats should be linking Republican candidates to Donald Trump. EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood have launched a new $1.7 million campaign against New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and their spot starts straight away with footage of Trump proclaiming that “Planned Parenthood should absolutely be defunded”—an unpopular position in the Granite State—before the narrator accuses Ayotte of “voting six times to do just that.”

The ad concludes with a clip of Ayotte saying that she thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned, then returns to Trump, who declares: “There has to be some form of punishment” for women who get abortions. We like this ad a lot because unlike some Democratic spots that try to tie Republicans to Trump without actually showing Trump saying anything offensive or reckless, this spot smartly shoves Trump’s face right in

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Morning Digest: How not to set off a Democratic panic

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FL-Sen: Late on Tuesday, Politico reported that the DSCC was cancelling the first week’s worth of ads it had planned to run on behalf of Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy beginning Sept. 20, but it very quickly became clear that this move was nothing like the committee’s pullback in Ohio. That’s because the DSCC said its money isn’t going anywhere but rather will just get deployed closer to Election Day.

Furthermore, the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC is still scheduled to head on to the airwaves starting Sept. 13, and the powerful union AFSCME just announced that it’s reserving $1.8 million in TV time for Murphy this month. While the NRSC of course tried to spin the DSCC’s action as Democrats “bailing” on Florida, this is not what “bailing” looks like.

That said, the DSCC could certainly have handled this in a smarter way. Given

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Morning Digest: Why this New Hampshire Republican just voted to restore Planned Parenthood’s funding

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NH-Gov: In an unexpected development, New Hampshire’s Executive Council, a special five-member body that has veto power over state contracts, voted to restore over half a million dollars in funding to Planned Parenthood on Wednesday. The reinstatement came about because Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, a Republican who is running for governor, switched sides: Last year, he cast the deciding vote to defund the organization; this time, he was part of a three-to-two majority to restore the state’s financial support for PP.

Sununu claimed that he voted against Planned Parenthood in 2015 because of the discredited videos that right-wing critics circulated to try to claim PP was involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. Sununu now admits that those allegations turned out to be utterly bogus (well, not exactly in those words), and so, he says, Planned Parenthood “should be treated like any other organization

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Morning Digest: Why this Florida Democrat’s decision to self-fund his campaign may be a big mistake

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FL-18: Rich guy Randy Perkins, the DCCC’s choice to hold this competitive open seat, just declared in an interview with Politico that he’s no longer going to fundraise for his campaign. Perkins called the practice “disgusting and appalling,” and said he’ll refund contributions to any donors who ask for them back. Instead, he plans to switch exclusively to self-funding, which he’s done to the tune of $2 million so far. But this approach is both unwise and, given who it’s coming from, kind of obnoxious.

For starters, fundraising isn’t just about raising money. It’s about getting people to buy in to your candidacy and feel invested in it. Donors are the sort of people who will tell their friends and family about you, and they give you a motivated base to draw on for volunteers. What’s more, when you’re forced to reach out to people,

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Morning Digest: The most vulnerable Republican congressman just got vulnerable-er

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NH-01: On Monday, New Hampshire state Rep. Pam Tucker suspended her primary campaign against GOP incumbent Frank Guinta, citing her young family. Tucker’s move is very bad news for Guinta, whom the state GOP has wanted to ditch ever since May, when the FEC ruled that he had illegally accepted a $355,000 campaign donation from his parents in 2010.

Guinta faces businessman Rich Ashooh in the September primary, and several prominent state GOP strategists recently formed a super PAC to help Ashooh. The congressman had just $76,000 in the bank at the end of March (Ashooh entered the race after the quarter ended), and his best chance to secure renomination was for Ashooh and Tucker to split the anti-Guinta vote. The filing deadline isn’t until June 10, so it’s possible that someone else will jump in and help Guinta. But if Guinta needs to

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Morning Digest: This is the worst polling debacle we’ve ever seen, by a huge margin

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MD-01: Forget any clever ledes—we’re just going to give this one to you right up front: Republican pollster Gravis Marketing blew a race by 96 points on Tuesday night. Yep, 96 points. It’s by far—by far—the biggest polling disaster we’ve ever seen, so let’s talk about it a little.

Back in January, Gravis conducted a poll for former state Del. Mike Smigiel, who was challenging Rep. Andy Harris in the GOP primary in Maryland’s conservative 1st Congressional District. Smigiel’s poll gave him an impossible 58-29 lead on Harris, and we knew, just knew, that those numbers had to be total bullshit, but we didn’t find out why until Politico’s Steve Sheppard discovered that Gravis had conducted a so-called “informed ballot” poll.

In such a poll, respondents are given information about each candidate before asking which they’d prefer in a direct matchup. That’s contrasted with

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Morning Digest: Kentucky Republican embraces Trump and launches the most offensive TV ad of the year

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KY-01: Uh, wow. Republican Mike Pape just laid claim to the most offensive campaign ad of 2016, and it’s not even close. You’re really just going to have to watch it:

The ad features three “Mexican” men, complete with bogus mustaches and accents, cutting their way through a fence marked “U.S. Border Do Not Cross” in the middle of the night. They then reveal their dastardly plan (in English, of course):

Man #1: Once through, we’ll stop Donald Trump!
Man #2: Si! And Ted Cruz, too!

Man #3: And Señor Mike Pape!

Man #1: Who?

Man #3: Mike Pape!

Man #2: [holding out roll of duct tape] Tape?

Man #3: Pape! Mike Pape! The conservative running for Congress who will help Trump build the wall!

Man #2: Will this Mike Pape help Ted Cruz repeal Obamacare?

Man #3: Si!

Man

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Morning Digest: Democrats put new House race on the board with top challenger

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MN-03: Democrats scored a big coup over the weekend in Minnesota, as state Sen. Terri Bonoff made a late—and unexpected—entry into the race against GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen. News of a possible Bonoff bid only surfaced late on Thursday; on Saturday, she announced her campaign at a party convention. Lobbyist Jon Tollefson, who had been the only Democrat in the race but had raised little money, immediately dropped out and endorsed Bonoff.

Bonoff ran for this seat once before, when it became open in 2008. However, the Democratic Party’s official endorsement that year went to Iraq vet Ashwin Madia, and she declined to challenge him in the primary. Madia went on to lose to Paulsen 48-41 (an Independence Party candidate took 11 percent), and since then, the incumbent has won re-election three times, never with less than 58 percent of the vote.

But

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