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Morning Digest: Maine's instant runoff could benefit Sara Gideon thanks to left-leaning independent

Maine Democrat Sara Gideon

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

ME-Sen: SurveyUSA's new poll for FairVote, an organization that promotes ranked-choice voting, is the first we've seen that's tried to fully simulate a potential instant runoff in Maine's Senate race. In a first-round question, Democrat Sara Gideon leads Republican Sen. Susan Collins 46-45, while Lisa Savage, a left-leaning independent, takes 4% of the vote, and Max Linn, a conservative perennial candidate also running as an independent, gets just 1%.

Eliminating Linn and reallocating his few supporters according to their second-choice preferences leaves the race largely unchanged—and with no one winning a majority: Gideon is at 48, Collins 47, and Savage 5. But drilling down to the third choices of Savage voters benefits Gideon, making her a 51-49 winner over Collins.

Some other recent surveys have asked voters about their second choices and have similarly found Savage supporters preferring Gideon to Collins, but none we're aware of have included third choices in order to replicate the entire process. At a debate last week, all four candidates said they would respect the outcome of any instant runoff, a contrast with former Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who unsuccessfully challenged the system in 2018 after losing to Democrat Jared Golden in the 2nd District.

Senate

MN-Sen: Republican Jason Lewis has been discharged from the hospital two days after undergoing emergency surgery for a hernia that his campaign said was potentially life-threatening. His team did not say whether he'd return to the campaign trail ahead of Election Day in his longshot bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Tina Smith.

Meanwhile, a new SurveyUSA poll for local media finds Democratic Sen. Tina Smith with just a 45-42 lead on Lewis—a touch better than the 43-42 edge the same pollster gave the incumbent in the middle of the month, but still closer than almost every other public poll. However, none of the major outside spenders, including Mitch McConnell's extremely flush Senate Leadership Fund, have gotten involved. Joe Biden has a slightly larger 47-42 advantage, though it's worth noting that his campaign just announced he'd make a last-minute stop in the state on Friday.

SC-Sen: A brand-new mystery super PAC called Liberty SC has spent at least $1 million so far to boost Constitution Party candidate Bill Bledsoe in the race between Democrat Jaime Harrison and Republican Lindsey Graham, but as Business Insider notes, the group won't be required to disclose its donors until after the election. However, its FEC filings show its spending has been directed to firms with Democratic ties, and the content of its advertising makes clear that its goal is to peel away conservative voters from Graham by encouraging them to support Bledsoe instead—a tactic that Harrison's own campaign has pursued for some time.

Graham has finally issued a direct response to this threat, with an ad attacking Harrison's efforts to prop up Bledsoe, who dropped out at the start of October. What's surprising, though, is that Graham's spot doesn't feature any footage of Bledsoe, who could easily disavow Democratic attempts to boost his ghost campaign, even though he endorsed Graham when he quit the race.

Polls: We're getting close to the end here, folks!

  • AL-Sen: Auburn University at Montgomery: Tommy Tuberville (R): 54, Doug Jones (D-inc): 43 (58-39 Trump) (early Oct.: 54-42 Tuberville)
  • AZ-Sen: Ipsos for Reuters: Mark Kelly (D): 51, Martha McSally (R-inc): 44 (47-47 presidential tie) (late Oct.: 51-43 Kelly)
  • AZ-Sen: Justice Collaborative Institute (D): Kelly (D): 50, McSally (R-inc): 40 (49-43 Biden)
  • AZ-Sen: Rasmussen Reports: Kelly (D): 48, McSally (R-inc): 43 (49-45 Trump) (mid-Oct.: 46-44 Kelly)
  • GA-Sen-A: Citizen Data: Jon Ossoff (D): 47, David Perdue (R-inc): 41 (48-44 Biden)
  • GA-Sen-A: Public Policy Polling (D): Ossoff (D): 47, Perdue (R-Inc): 44, Shane Hazel (L): 3 (48-46 Biden) (early Oct.: 44-43 Ossoff)
  • GA-Sen-B: Citizen Data: Raphael Warnock (D): 41, Kelly Loeffler (R-inc): 23, Doug Collins (R): 19, Matt Lieberman (D): 4
  • GA-Sen-B: Public Policy Polling (D): Warnock (D): 46, Loeffler (R-inc): 27, Collins (R): 19, Lieberman (D): 2 (48-46 Biden) (early Oct.: Warnock: 41, Loeffler: 24, Collins: 22)
  • IA-Sen: QuinnipiacUniversity: Joni Ernst (R-inc): 48, Theresa Greenfield (D): 46 (47-46 Trump) (early Oct.: 50-45 Greenfield)
  • IA-Sen: RABA Research for Nexstar Iowa: Greenfield (D): 51, Ernst (R-inc): 45 (50-46 Biden) (Sept.: 51-39 Greenfield)
  • KS-Sen: GBAO (D) for Barbara Bollier: Barbara Bollier (D): 46, Roger Marshall: 45, Jason Buckley (L): 4 (Sept.: 45-43 Bollier)
  • MI-Sen: Citizen Data: Gary Peters (D-inc): 46, John James (R): 42 (50-41 Biden)
  • MI-Sen: Mitchell Research (R) for MIRS: Peters (D-inc): 52, James (R): 43 (52-42 Biden) (mid-Oct.: 49-43 Peters)
  • MN-Sen: SurveyUSA for local media: Tina Smith (D-inc): 45, Jason Lewis (R): 42 (47-42 Biden) (late Oct.: 43-42 Smith)
  • MT-Sen: MSU Billings: Steve Bullock (D): 48, Steve Daines (R-inc): 47 (52-45 Trump)
  • NC-Sen: Citizen Data: Cal Cunningham (D): 48, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 42 (50-44 Biden)
  • NC-Sen: Siena College for the New York Times: Cunningham (D): 46, Tillis (R-inc): 43, Bray (L): 2, Hayes (C): 1 (48-45 Biden) (mid-Oct.: 41-37 Cunningham)
  • NC-Sen: SurveyUSA for WRAL: Cunningham (D): 48, Tillis (R-inc): 45 (48-48 presidential tie) (mid-Oct.: 49-39 Cunningham)
  • NC-Sen: YouGov for UMass Lowell: Cunningham (D): 49, Tillis (R-inc): 45 (48-48 presidential tie) (late Oct.: 49-43 Cunningham)
  • TX-Sen: Citizen Data: MJ Hegar (D): 43, John Cornyn (R-inc): 38 (51-42 Biden)
  • TX-Sen: YouGov for UMass Lowell: Cornyn (R-inc): 49, Hegar (D): 44 (48-47 Trump) (late Oct.: 49-42 Cornyn)

Gubernatorial

Polls:

MT-Gov: MSU Billings' poll is actually the first public survey that doesn't show Cooney trailing Gianforte, excluding a poll from RMG Research (the firm now run by Scott Rasmussen) that found Cooney up 47-46 in an alternative "strong Democratic turnout" model.

NH-Gov: ARG's numbers are by far the closest we've seen of this seldom-surveyed race, but almost all the other polls to date resemble YouGov's.

House

NC-09: On behalf of the progressive group 314 Action, Public Policy Polling has conducted a new survey that finds freshman Rep. Dan Bishop up just 45-43 on his Democratic opponent, financial advisor Cynthia Wallace, while Donald Trump holds a small 50-48 edge on Joe Biden.

National Democratic groups hadn't shown any interest in this race after Bishop narrowly beat Democrat Dan McCready 51-49 in a special election last year after 2018's results were thrown out due to Republican election fraud. However, the district has since become about a point bluer on the presidential level as a result of court-ordered redistricting and now sits at 54-43 Trump. In addition, about 20% of the revised district's voters are new to Bishop.

Wallace hasn't raised all that much by today's lofty standards, but Bishop hasn't exactly raked it in either, perhaps not anticipating a serious challenge. Polling elsewhere in North Carolina has suggested we could see some large regional shifts against Trump, though an upset here would be a major shocker.

NJ-03: Freshman Rep. Andy Kim apparently feels so confident about his re-election chances against Republican David Richter that his campaign recently donated at least $8,000 to fellow Democrats whom he presumably thinks are in greater need than he is. As cataloged by Greg Giroux, Kim has given $1,000 apiece to two challengers, Hiral Tipirneni in Arizona's 6th Congressional District and Cameron Webb in Virginia's 5th, as well to half a dozen members of his caucus, including Peter DeFazio in Oregon's 4th District.

Two years ago, this development would have been almost impossible to anticipate. Kim's narrow victory in 2018 was one of the biggest upsets of the midterms, and his bid for a second term in this expensive district that straddles the Philadelphia and New York City media markets had long looked like it would be one of the hardest holds for Democrats this year. But Richter proved to be a weaker-than-expected candidate—a wealthy self-funder who simply hasn't self-funded enough—and amid an ugly environment for the GOP, Republican outside groups have paid him almost no attention.

We recently moved this race from Tossup to Lean Democratic, but it's possible Kim thinks he's even more secure than that rating would suggest. However, it's worth noting that he was still asking for contributions as of Thursday—to his own campaign.

Independent Expenditures: The House Majority PAC, which is the largest Democratic super PAC involved in House races, reported $38 million in new spending for the final week of the election with the FEC on Wednesday night. Most of the outlays come in races where outside groups, including HMP, have long been active, but a few are notable:

  • CA-04: $112,000 on digital ads to help Democrat Brynne Kennedy against Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, the first spending from any of the "big four" outside groups (DCCC, HMP, NRCC, and CLF).
  • IL-17: $546,000 on TV ads to help Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos, the chair of the DCCC, against Republican Esther Joy King. It's the first outside money from either HMP or the D-Trip, and it matches a similar sum that the Congressional Leadership Fund recently put up to boost King.
  • MN-02: $329,000 on TV ads to help Democratic Rep. Angie Craig against Republican Tyler Kistner, bringing their total to $403,000 to date. Again, none of the other major groups have spent here.
  • NJ-05: $173,000 on TV ads to help Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer against Republican Frank Pallotta, bringing their total to $328,000 to date. Gottheimer has looked safe for re-election, but Trump did narrowly carry this North Jersey district. Republican groups and the DCCC, however, haven't spent here.
  • NV-04: $337,000 on TV ads to help Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford against Republican Jim Marchant, bringing their total to $625,000 to date. None of the rest of the "big four" have gotten involved here.
  • OR-04: $452,000 on TV ads to help Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, bringing their total to $1.76 million. DeFazio has always won re-election handily, but Democrats appeared to grow concerned about this swing district late (the D-Trip has also thrown in $172,000). CLF, however, has only spent about a quarter million here.

We'll have a final roundup of all House spending by the top four groups just before Election Day.

Polls:

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