POLITICO's Morning Score: Democrats, Republicans release final-week Montana ads — Chaffetz resignation to spark another special election — Big spending gap on health care issue ads

By Scott Bland | 05/19/2017 10:00 AM EDT

With Elena Schneider, Kevin Robillard and Daniel Strauss

The following newsletter is an abridged version of Campaign Pro's Morning Score. For an earlier morning read on exponentially more races - and for a more comprehensive aggregation of the day's most important campaign news - sign up for Campaign Pro today. (http://www.politicopro.com/proinfo)

SPECIAL ELECTION UPDATE - NEW THIS A.M. - Congressional Leadership Fund launches final salvo vs. Quist: Congressional Leadership Fund is out with its final ad attacking Democrat Rob Quist in Montana, again attacking the folk singer for his debts and tax liens. The 30-second spot opens with footage of Quist playing the guitar and singing, before a female narrator cuts in: "Rob Quist is folksy, but with his long pattern of bad debts and tax liens - even stiffing a contractor who did work on his home - Quist doesn't stand with you. And in Washington, Quist would stand with Nancy Pelosi and her liberal, out-of-touch agenda, not Montana." Watch the ad here.

- DCCC releases new TV ad in Georgia: "The DCCC released a new TV ad in Georgia's special election that hits Republican Karen Handel as a 'partisan, self-serving career politician' who used her position of Georgia secretary of state to 'serve herself.'" Watch the ad here.

- House Majority PAC pumps $700,000 into Georgia special: "House Majority PAC is entering Georgia's expensive House special election runoff with a $500,000 broadcast TV buy and a $200,000 field effort to boost Democrat Jon Ossoff. The TV buy is being made in conjunction with Patriot Majority, another Democratic outside group, and will start May 30." Full story.

- NRCC releases two TV ads in Montana: "The NRCC is out with two new TV ads in the final week of Montana's special election that continue to hammer Democrat Rob Quist on his personal financial struggles, including 'a defaulted loan, tax liens, collections, foreclosure notices,' one ad says." Watch "Share" here. Watch "Bond" here.

- House Majority PAC makes $25K TV buy in Montana special: "The buy is a small one; the candidates and parties have so far spent over $8 million on the Montana race. But it underscores how Democrats are making a late play in the contest." Full story.

ANOTHER SPECIAL ELECTION - "Chaffetz announces early departure from Congress" by Politico's Jake Sherman and Rachael Bade: "Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is expected to announce Thursday that he is resigning before the end of this congressional term, according to three sources familiar with his plans.Chaffetz did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. Multiple sources say he will leave Congress on June 30." Full story. See Chaffetz's letter to constituents here.

ISSUE AD WATCH - "GOP group outspending Democrats 4-to-1 on health care ads," by Campaign Pro's Scott Bland: "For the first time in years, Democrats feel like they have the upper hand in the political battles over health care. But one aspect of the fight is the same as ever: Republicans still have a massive spending advantage ... The Republican push has been led by American Action Network, the big-money GOP nonprofit aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan. A new round of radio ads launched this week brought the group's total spending on health care advocacy this year to $13.1 million, it announced Monday. That includes nearly over $8 million on TV and radio advertising targeted toward House districts around the country, according to the group. By contrast, Save My Care and Patriot Majority USA - the two progressive nonprofit groups running health care issue ads in House districts - have spent less than $2 million on House TV and radio advertising targeting House Republicans, according to a Democratic source tracking media spending."

- "The more than 4-to-1 GOP advertising advantage amid the passage of the House Republican health care bill has disheartened some Democrats. They want to see their party take full advantage of favorable polling on health care and push the issue early - much as Republicans did against them before the 2010 and 2014 elections. 'This is a deeply unpopular piece of legislation, but the electorate is not fully aware of what it does and it is not at the top of people's minds,' said Jon Vogel, a Democratic strategist who was the executive director of the DCCC in 2010, when Republican outside groups spent millions on anti-Obamacare issue ads leading up to the GOP wave election in the fall. 'It's a good opportunity for us to drive home how bad this is.'" Full story.

THE COUNTER - "Why California Republicans aren't as vulnerable as they look," by POLITICO California's David Siders: "No state is more critical to the battle for the House in 2018 than California, and Democrats here rushed last week to tear into vulnerable Republicans over their support for the health care repeal and replace bill. Yet in a sign of how difficult it will be for Democrats to win back a House majority - even when armed with high-caliber ammunition - doubts about the lasting political potency of the Affordable Health Care Act already are emerging." Full story.

Days until the 2017 election: 172.

Days until the 2018 election: 536.

Thanks for joining us.You can email tips to the Campaign Pro team at sbland@politico.com, eschneider@politico.com, krobillard@politico.com and dstrauss@politico.com.

You can also follow us on Twitter: @politicoscott, @ec_schneider, @politicokevin and @danielstrauss4.

NERDCAST PODCAST: A week of damaging leaks on President Donald Trump's interactions with Russian diplomats and former FBI Director James Comey have once again pulled the focus away from Republicans' legislative agenda. POLITICO's Scott Bland, Charlie Mahtesian, Eliana Johnson and Ken Vogel discuss on the latest episode of POLITICO's Nerdcast - plus, Elena Schneider joins to preview next week's special House election in Montana. Listen and subscribe: iTunes | Panoply | Stitcher

CASH RACE - FIRST IN SCORE - DSCC raises $4.6 million in April: The Democratic Senate committee raised $4.6 million in April, a committee aide said, giving it $14 million on hand. The haul is the best for an off-year April in the DSCC's history. The NRSC is yet to release its own numbers, but had $13 million on hand as of its last report.

- "House Dems Smash Fundraising Records Ahead of Midterms," by MSNBC's Alex Seitz-Wald: "House Democrats have already raised more money in online contributions this year ahead of the midterms than they did during all of 2015 ... The DCCC raised $20 million in online contributions since the start of the year from contributions averaging just $18, according to the group, beating the $19.7 million the committee raised during 2015, the last off-year ahead of an election year." Full story.

- Quist announces raising over $1.7M since May 5 for MT-AL: "Democrat Rob Quist passed the $5 million overall fundraising in his bid to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the Montana special election, his campaign announced, meaning that Quist brought in $1.7 million in the last two and a half weeks since reporting his pre-special election fundraising." Full story.

DUELING POLLS - Post-GMU poll shows Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary essentially tied: "Former Rep. Tom Perriello and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam are essentially tied in Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial primary, according to new survey from the Washington Post and George Mason University. Perriello had support from 40 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in the poll, while 38 percent back Northam and 18 percent are undecided. The poll indicates Perriello could gain an advantage by expanding the electorate: 35 of Democratic-leaning registered voters support him, while 29 percent back Northam." Full story.

- Northam internal poll claims sizable lead over Perriello: "An internal poll from Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam's gubernatorial campaign gives him a sizable lead over former Rep. Tom Perriello in the June 13 Democratic primary for governor in the state. Northam leads 50 percent to Perriello's 33 percent among likely Democratic primary voters in the new poll, according to a memo from Garin-Hart-Yang research group obtained by POLITICO. Seventeen percent of voters are undecided." Full story.

MORE DATAPOINTS - Wicker internal poll shows him leading McDaniel, 55-30: "An internal poll conducted for GOP Sen. Roger Wicker shows him with a big lead, 55 percent to 30 percent, over potential primary challenger Chris McDaniel, who nearly unseated Sen. Thad Cochran in a 2014 Republican primary." Full story.

GETTING THE NOD - End Citizens United endorses new round of incumbents: End Citizens United announced its next round of candidate endorsements for 2018, per a statement from the group, including Reps. Nannette Barragan (CA-44), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Scott Peters (CA-52), Norma Torres (CA-35), Elizabeth Esty (CT-05), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), John Yarmuth (KY-03), Anthony Brown (MD-04), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Tom Suozzi (NY-03), Paul Tonko (NY-20) and David Cicilline (RI-01).

FIRST IN SCORE - YOU'VE GOT MAIL - AAN promotes GOP health plan to two million households: The American Action Network, a GOP nonprofit tied to House leadership, is sending direct mail promoting the Republican plan to replace Obamacare to two million households spread across 26 congressional districts, urging voters to call their lawmakers and thank them for supporting the plan. The mail will target Arizona Rep. Martha McSally; California Reps. Jeff Denham, David Valadao, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Knight, Ed Royce, Mimi Walters and Darrell Issa; Florida Reps. Brian Mast and Carlos Curbelo; Iowa Rep. Rod Blum; Illinois Reps. Peter Roskam and Rodney Davis; Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder; Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin; Minnesota Reps. Jason Lewis and Erik Paulsen; Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon; New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur; Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei; Ohio Reps. Jim Jordan and Pat Tiberi; Oregon Rep. Greg Walden; Texas Rep. Kevin Brady; House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

CODA - QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Joe Lieberman has no real law enforcement credentials. Look where he works now, a Trump law firm." - Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of several Democratic senators panning the idea of their former colleague becoming FBI director, via POLITICO.

To view online:
http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-score/2017/05/19/democrats-republicans-release-final-week-montana-ads-220402

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