The small 2020 gubernatorial map

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— 2020 is expected to be a heated year in the battle for the White House and for Congress. But don’t expect the same for the gubernatorial map.

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— Billionaire Tom Steyer is the latest candidate to hit the donor threshold for the fall Democratic primary debate, giving him two more weeks to make it up on stage.

— Republican Bill Waller picked up the endorsement of one of his former rivals for the Mississippi gubernatorial nomination, as he launches an attack ad against Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves ahead of the runoff.

Good Wednesday morning. Email me at zmontellaro@politico.com, or DM me at @ZachMontellaro.

Email the rest of the Campaign Pro team at sshepard@politico.com, dstrauss@politico.com, jarkin@politico.com and lbarron-lopez@politico.com. Follow them on Twitter: @POLITICO_Steve, @DanielStrauss4, @JamesArkin and @lbarronlopez.

Days until the Mississippi GOP governor runoff: 13

Days until the NC-03 and NC-09 general elections: 27

Days until the Louisiana gubernatorial primary election: 59

Days until the Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia general elections: 83

Days until the 2020 election: 447

ON THE BACK BURNER — 2018 was a banner year for gubernatorial races, with races in three dozen states. But this cycle, there’s just 11 races, and most of them are in safe seats.

“Each party has an offensive opportunity this year: In Kentucky, Democrats are hoping state Attorney General Andy Beshear can oust GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, while Republicans are targeting Louisiana’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards,” Campaign Pro’s Daniel Strauss wrote. “Republicans are also defending the open-seat governorship in Mississippi, which last elected a Democratic governor 20 years ago.”

But in 2020, the list of competitive races remains nearly as small: Democrats’ most appealing targets are the popular New Englanders, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. Republicans, meanwhile, are favored to flip Montana — where Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock is term-limited — and will be charging hard at North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

“For the most part, you’re talking about states where one party has a pretty significant advantage. And we’ve seen especially over the last few cycles just how challenging it is for a gubernatorial race to get enough ticket-splitters to go in a different direction than the presidential race,” Democratic pollster Zac McCrary told Daniel. He also reported that the White House “hasn’t really begun focusing on the 2020 [gubernatorial] map,” citing a Republican campaign manager who regularly works with the White House, but when they do, they will likely focus on states like North Carolina.

THE DEBATE STAGE — Steyer is the latest candidate to pass the donor threshold for the fall debates, putting him just one poll away from being on stage in September and October (reminder that the deadline to qualify for the September debate is Aug. 28). Right now, nine candidates have qualified for both debates, with Steyer and Julián Castro being the most likely candidates to join them (Castro also needs just one more poll) before the September stage is finalized. More candidates could join them in October.

READY FOR (RE)LAUNCH — Sen. Bernie Sanders and his team are ready to reboot his campaign, with a focus on Medicare for All. “Over the past several weeks, his staffers have organized a flurry of events centered around the failures of the current health care system and highlighting his role as the author of the main Medicare for All proposal in the Senate,” POLITICO’s Holly Otterbein and Alex Thompson wrote. Sanders, in an interview with Holly and Alex: “It could be the winning issue for me in the primary, it will be the winning issue for me in the general election,” he said. “I’m campaigning on the legislation that I wrote. As you know, I wrote the damn bill.”

— Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke has been a voice for El Paso since the mass shooting in his city earlier this month. Will his presidential campaign get a second look from voters, as he attracted more media attention? “O’Rourke has taken pains not to capitalize on the shooting,” POLITICO’s David Siders wrote, noting he has only sent fundraising emails to charities responding to the mass shooting and assisting immigrants following a Trump administration immigration raid. “He refused to call donors and, until recently, to discuss campaign plans, according to two people close to his campaign. … For O’Rourke’s campaign staff, the former congressman’s response to the shooting has served as a galvanizing force in an operation that had been battered by weak fundraising and polling. In addition, O’Rourke has already qualified for the fall debates.”

CLEANING UP — Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is playing clean-up with immigration activists. “Biden said at the July 31 Democratic debate that illegal immigrants need to ‘get in line’ and that the country has been right to ‘cherry pick’ high-skilled immigrants, notably those with advanced degrees,” which set off widespread criticism from activists, POLITICO’s Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki reported. “The campaign quickly embarked on damage control. Aides soothed aggrieved activists, and Biden had a closed-door meeting with Latino leaders in San Diego before his speech at the UnidosUS conference last week.”

NOT RUNNING — Democrat Stacey Abrams will not run for president, and is instead expanding her organization focused on voting rights in Georgia to a national level, The Washington Post’s Vanessa Williams reported. More from Williams: “The effort, expected to cost between $4 million and $5 million, will target 20 states, most of them battlegrounds in the Midwest and Southeast, and three states with gubernatorial elections this year: Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi.”

AD WARS — It is the era of microtargeted TV buys: Castro’s campaign bought a small TV buy today on Fox News of about $3,000 in Bedminster, N.J., (where Trump is currently spending the week at his golf club), The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker wrote. The ad — a likely attempt to goad the president into tweeting — has Castro speaking direct-to-camera, addressing the president. “As we saw in El Paso, Americans were killed because you stoked the fire of racists,” he said in the ad. “Innocent people were shot down because they look different from you, because they look like me.”

POLICY PRIMARY — Pete Buttigieg is the latest Democrat to release a plan to bolster rural economies, POLITICO’s Arren Kimbel-Sannit reported.

THE GOVERNATORS — Waller picked up the endorsement of state Rep. Robert Foster, who finished third in last week’s gubernatorial primary, per WMC’s Brandon Richard. Waller, who finished second, will face off against Reeves in two weeks for the Republican nomination. Waller also released a new campaign ad responding to an attack ad from Reeves. “We don’t have time for this mudslinging and nonsense,” Waller says in his ad, which compares Reeves to a screaming child.

— Gumbo PAC, the PAC that supports Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, released a pair of attack ads hitting the two Republicans looking to challenge him. The first ad criticizes Eddie Rispone’s business record, calling him a “phony,” and the second ad hits Rep. Ralph Abraham for promising to donate his salary to charity but not doing so (a January report from The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges found that he donated his salary during his first term and a spokesperson said he couldn’t continue to do so due to a loss of income).

Rispone also released an ad with him talking about his Christian faith, saying “I believe in the power of prayer, not government.”

NC-09 FOREVER — House Majority Forward, a recently-launched dark money group supporting House Democrats, is going up on the airwaves for the special election between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Dan Bishop. The group told Score it will spend about $500,000 from Aug. 20-26.

— The NRCC’s independent-expenditure arm rolled out its latest ad in the district, which builds on the first two ads attacking McCready over his business practices. One of the characters sings a jingle in the ad: “Oh Dan McCready, he’s so McGreedy. He’s Dan McCready, that’s McGreedy with a G.”

— EDF Action Votes is returning to the airwaves in the district, putting more money behind a contrast ad promoting McCready while criticizing Bishop that ran under an EDF Action Fund banner last month. The group said that the collective buy now tops $800,000.

— Bishop released an ad accusing a “liberal sheriff” in Charlotte of “playing politics” with immigration and said McCready wouldn’t stand up to him.

THE SENATE MAP — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is “giving serious consideration” to ending his presidential bid to run for Senate, The New York Times’ Reid Epstein wrote, reporting that Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), a fellow presidential hopeful, “drove around Clear Lake [in Iowa] for about 20 minutes” on Friday to discuss Hickenlooper’s decision.

— Kansas is still waiting for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, even after he has said a Senate run was “off the table.” Several candidates told The Wall Street Journal’s Lindsay Wise they’d drop out if Pompeo got in, including state Treasurer Jake LaTurner and state Senate President Susan Wagle. Kansas Chamber of Commerce President Alan Cobb, who is considering a run, said he wouldn’t jump in if Pompeo does. Kris Kobach said his “gut instinct” would be to not step aside if Pompeo gets in, and Rep. Roger Marshall, who is also considering a run, said he wouldn’t answer a hypothetical question.

Separately, state Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s team emailed reporters saying he is still considering a run, but would “announce his intentions at or before the 2020 Kansas GOP Convention,” per The Kansas City Star’s Bryan Lowry.

— A top ally of Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, is trying nudge him into the Senate race in New Hampshire. David Bossie, the president of Citizens United, released a poll that showed Lewandowski as a front runner in the GOP field, POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt reported.

THE HOUSE MAP — Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-Calif.) trial has been pushed back until January 2020, from a mid-September trial date, the AP’s Julie Watson reported. The trial date is after the candidate filing deadline in CA-50 (and the rest of the state) closes.

— Democrat Dana Balter, who is running again in NY-24 after losing to GOP Rep. John Katko by about five points in 2018, violated FEC regulations by accepting a salary from her campaign before the state candidate filing deadline, The Auburn Citizen’s Robert Harding reported. A spokesperson for Balter said that it was an “oversight” and she will reimburse the campaign.

CAMPAIGN CASH — A federal court upheld a Montana state law that would require dark money groups that plan on spending more than $250 on ads or mailers that mention candidates, parties or ballot initiatives within two months before an election to register with the state and file disclosures, The Fulcrum reported.

PRIMARY PROBLEMS — GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson may get a primary challenge in South Dakota from Trump’s former state director. Former state Sen. Neal Tapio wrote on Facebook that he was “actively considering” a congressional run next year, the Argus Leader’s Lisa Kaczke wrote, and that he’s been trying to drive a wedge between Johnson and the White House.

STAFFING UP — Chris Martin is joining America Rising, the GOP oppo research group, as comms director. He was most recently director of rapid response for the House Republican Conference.

PAC ATTACK — Activist Shaun King and operatives Becky Bond and Zack Malitz are launching a new PAC called ACTION PAC, with the intention of flipping the Senate. The group said in a press call that their goal was to raise and spend $5 million the cycle.

CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Dish soap and hand soap are pretty much the same thing.” — Buttigieg giving advice to college students in Iowa, per C-SPAN.





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