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Fri May 29, 2015 at 09:05 AM PDT

More bad news... for John McCain!

by Jeff Singer

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ)
Rep. Matt Salmon is considering a primary campaign against John McCain
On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced that she would challenge Republican Sen. John McCain, but the senator may have more immediate problems. Republican Rep. Matt Salmon initially showed little interest in opposing McCain in the primary, but he began to change his tune in April. Conservative groups like the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks have been working hard to recruit Salmon, and the congressman's camp is letting them know that their efforts are bearing fruit. An unnamed source close to Salmon tells The National Journal that Salmon is "taking a serious look," at running, and will likely decide by early August.

If Salmon gets in, McCain is not going to have an easy time beating him back. A May PPP survey gave McCain a wretched 41-50 approval rating with primary voters, and found McCain beating Salmon only 42-40. We haven't seen any other recent primary polls, according to Salmon's allies, they've seen similar numbers. McCain is no pushover, and he proved in 2010 that he's willing to exploit his opponent's weakness. It's also far from clear if state Sen. Kelli Ward will get out of Salmon's way if he jumps in, or if she'll take away some anti-McCain votes that he could badly use. Still, there's little doubt that the GOP base is tired of McCain and that they'll take a serious look at an alternative.

Team Blue will be rooting for a bloody McCain-Salmon primary, but it's anyone's guess who would be an easier general election opponent. PPP found McCain very unpopular statewide with a 36-51 approval rating, while Salmon is more of a blank slate with a 22-25 favorable score. (Salmon lost the 2002 gubernatorial contest by just 1 percent, but it's not shocking that many voters have forgotten about him since then.) However, Salmon's tea party stances could cost him some support even in this conservative state, and his poor relationship with GOP leaders could hamper him in a general election. No matter what, both parties will be watching Salmon's moves closely.

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7:54 AM PT (Jeff Singer): KY-Gov: The nasty and excruciatingly tight GOP primary is finally over. On Friday, state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer conceded to businessman Matt Bevin and endorsed him. Comer's move comes one day after a recanvass left Bevin's 83-vote lead intact. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Bevin tried to unseat only one year ago, also endorsed his old rival, though his one-line statement wasn't exactly enthusiastic. Bevin will face Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway in November in a race that both parties will be working hard to win.

8:33 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Phoenix Mayor: A few months ago, it looked like Democratic incumbent Greg Stanton could face real opposition from both the right and the left. However, the filing deadline passed on Wednesday, and mayor's detractors just couldn't find anyone credible willing to face him. Two conservative city councilors attempted to recruit 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones in February, but she never showed much interest. On the other side of the aisle, AFSCME tried to enlist former Mayor Phil Gordon to take on Stanton, but Gordon endorsed his successor instead. Ultimately, Stanton will face only perennial candidate Matt Jette and Anna Maria Brennan, who took just 5 percent in the 2011 non-partisan primary.

9:03 AM PT (Jeff Singer): AZ-Sen: On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced that she would challenge Republican Sen. John McCain, but the senator may have more immediate problems. Republican Rep. Matt Salmon initially showed little interest in opposing McCain in the primary, but he began to change his tune in April. Conservative groups like the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks have been working hard to recruit Salmon, and the congressman's camp is letting them know that their efforts are bearing fruit. An unnamed source close to Salmon tells The National Journal that Salmon is "taking a serious look," at running, and will likely decide by early August.

If Salmon gets in, McCain is not going to have an easy time beating him back. A May PPP survey gave McCain a wretched 41-50 approval rating with primary voters, and found McCain beating Salmon only 42-40. We haven't seen any other recent primary polls, according to Salmon's allies, they've seen similar numbers. McCain is no pushover, and he proved in 2010 that he's willing to exploit his opponent's weakness. It's also far from clear if state Sen. Kelli Ward will get out of Salmon's way if he jumps in, or if she'll take away some anti-McCain votes that he could badly use. Still, there's little doubt that the GOP base is tired of McCain and that they'll take a serious look at an alternative.

Team Blue will be rooting for a bloody McCain-Salmon primary, but it's anyone's guess who would be an easier general election opponent. PPP found McCain very unpopular statewide with a 36-51 approval rating, while Salmon is more of a blank slate with a 22-25 favorable score. (Salmon lost the 2002 gubernatorial contest by just 1 percent, but it's not shocking that many voters have forgotten about him since then.) However, Salmon's tea party stances could cost him some support even in this conservative state, and his poor relationship with GOP leaders could hamper him in a general election. No matter what, both parties will be watching Salmon's moves closely.

11:14 AM PT (Jeff Singer): San Antonio Mayor: The June 13 runoff between interim Mayor Ivy Taylor and ex-state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte is right around the corner and if the primary results are any indication, things could be tight. However, former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, who took a close third, has decided not to endorse either of the remaining contenders. Most of Villarreal's old constituents live in Van De Putte's former legislative district so his supporters may be more inclined to back her than Taylor, but without any public polling it's hard to draw any conclusions.

1:26 PM PT (Jeff Singer): VT-Gov: Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin barely held back the little-known Scott Milne last year, and the state GOP is smelling blood. Lt. Gov. Phil Scott recently told WCAX that he's considering a bid, and that it won't make a difference if Shumlin runs again or not. Scott has decisively won the lieutenant governorship three times, and he'd almost certainly be the best candidate the GOP can land. While Vermont is one of the bluest states out there, it hasn't been afraid to elect Republican governors. Milne has also expressed interest in running, though he's likely to get pushed aside of Scott gets in. For his part, Shumlin hasn't announced if he'll seek a fourth-two year term yet.

2:19 PM PT: CA-07: Democratic Rep. Ami Bera doesn't have a Republican opponent yet, but he sits in a swingy Sacramento-area district and both of his first two elections were decided by very narrow margins, so you can bet he'll receive a stiff challenge from the GOP again. But he probably wasn't expecting to take some incoming fire from a constituency that usually supports Democrats: organized labor. The AFL-CIO is extremely unhappy that many congressional Democrats, including Bera, are supporting so-called "fast-track" negotiation authority that would allow President Obama to push through a trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Here's a good explainer.)

Lots of liberals are opposed to the agreement, for a variety of reasons. The AFL focuses on jobs, with a very hostile narrator declaring: "Ami Bera will do anything to keep his job—including shipping your job overseas." The spot goes on to say that fast-track (or really TPP) is "the same kind of trade deal that's already meant millions of lost jobs." A House vote is expected on fast-track this coming week, and the ad is obviously designed to send a message to Bera.

The size of the buy is reportedly "six figures," which almost always means something in the $100,000 range, so it's not huge, nor will many folks remember it a year from now. But if Bera votes in favor of the bill (as he's indicated), the question is whether unions will remember that come next November and be reluctant to come to his aid.

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Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R) leaves the stage after introducing U.S. President Bush to speak at a campaign fundraiser in Chicago October 12, 2006. Bush appeared publicly for the first time with Hastert on Friday since former Rep. Mark Foley's resignation over sexually explicit messages he sent to teenage male pages.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  (UNITED STATES) - RTR1I9K2
Ex-Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert
Leading Off:

WATN: Did anyone see this coming? Former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, a Republican who represented Illinois for almost two decades, was just indicted on charges that he lied to the FBI and "structured" financial transactions to avoid IRS detection. Prosecutors have made few details of the allegations known so far (the indictment itself can be found here), but according to unnamed sources cited by BuzzFeed, the charges could stem from actions Hastert took before entering politics all the way back in 1980.

Hastert unexpectedly became speaker in 1999, after Newt Gingrich resigned from the House following a terrible election year for the GOP in 1998, and Rep. Bob Livingston, his designated successor, also resigned following revelations that he'd had an affair. During his tenure, Hastert was widely regarded as a figurehead, with real power residing in Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, whose career ended amid corruption allegations.

Hastert, by contrast, followed Gingrich's path: After disastrous midterms in 2006 that saw Democrats retake the chamber, he, too, quit the House. By that time, Nancy Pelosi had become speaker, and in a further insult, Democrat Bill Foster picked up Hastert's seat in a special election. Hastert always maintained a low profile in D.C., and he's barely been heard from since he left Washington. But now it looks like we're about to hear a whole lot more.

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Representative Dennis Hastert (R-IL) announces in Yorkville, Illinois August 17, 2007, that he will not seek another term in Congress. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES) - RTR1SUYE
Denny Hastert
Did anyone see this coming? Former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, a Republican who represented Illinois for almost two decades, was just indicted on charges that he lied to the FBI and "structured" financial transactions to avoid IRS detection. Prosecutors have made few details of the allegations known so far (the indictment itself can be found here), but according to unnamed sources cited by BuzzFeed, the charges could stem from actions Hastert took before entering politics all the way back in 1980.

Hastert unexpectedly became speaker in 1999, after Newt Gingrich resigned from the House following a terrible election year for the GOP in 1998, and Rep. Bob Livingston, his designated successor, also resigned following revelations that he'd had an affair. During his tenure, Hastert was widely regarded as a figurehead, with real power residing in Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, whose career ended amid corruption allegations.

Hastert, by contrast, followed Gingrich's path: After disastrous midterms in 2006 that saw Democrats retake the chamber, he, too, quit the House. By that time, Nancy Pelosi had become speaker, and in a further insult, Democrat Bill Foster picked up Hastert's seat in a special election. Hastert always maintained a low profile in D.C., and he's barely been heard from since he left Washington. But now it looks like we're about to hear a whole lot more.

Discuss
Imagine if Occupy Wall Street had ballooned into a massive movement with 50 million people in the streets nationwide. Imagine this grassroots upswelling coalescing into a political party unofficially led by Elizabeth Warren, and quickly nearing both Democrats and Republicans in sheer size. Imagine this party sweeping a quarter of the incumbents in your state legislature out of office. And imagine this party running Bernie Sanders for president—and showing a tie in the polls.

That's one way of looking at what happened in Spain last weekend, as Europe saw yet another dramatic election. Spanish voters went to the polls to pick candidates in regional and municipal races, with thousands of seats up for grabs. For decades, power has generally passed between the two main parties in most regions (and in the national parliament): on the right, PP (Partido Popular, the People's Party), and on the left, PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party). But on Sunday, that regime broke down.

As you can see in the graph above, PP's share of regional seats fell from 50 percent to 35 percent, while PSOE fell at the same time. Two new parties, Podemos (We Can) and Ciudadanos (Citizens), together won 22 percent of regional seats. (Podemos is leftist and vocally anti-austerity, while Ciudadanos is more center-right and pro-business.) Similar results were seen in municipal elections, where PP received only 27 percent of all votes cast, compared to 38 percent in 2011. PSOE, again, also saw its vote share decrease, from 28 percent to 25. A good interactive graphic of municipal results can be found here.

Not only that, but the two biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, may end up with mayors with ties to the "indignados" protest movement that gave birth to Podemos. Barcelona has elected leftist activist Ada Colau, while in Madrid, second-place finisher Manuela Carmena could end up in power if she is able to form an alliance with Socialists.

Colau's story, rising from a protestor detained while physically blocking foreclosures to the mayor of Barcelona, is the story of this election—and perhaps the general election that will take place this fall as well. In that contest, polling prior to last weekend indicated a robust four-way race. Podemos had been trending downward of late, but the party's recent successes may well boost its fortunes later this year.

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In 2012, Democratic House candidates earned more votes combined than Republicans did, but the Democratic Party still came nowhere close to reclaiming the chamber. Now, Democrats are faced with the grim reality that they're likely to be locked out of the House until 2022 at the very earliest, barring a wave election that no one can count on.

But it shouldn't be this way. As we'll demonstrate, it's eminently possible to draw nonpartisan congressional districts that give voters a real choice and allow the majority to have its voice heard. Below, you'll find proposed maps for the entire Northeast that reflect these principles.

Pennsylvania — Proposed Map:

Proposed Pennsylvania non-partisan congressional map.
Interactive versionDistrict summary stats

Current Map:

Drawn by: Republican governor and legislature
Intended to Favor: Republicans
Delegation: 5 Democrats, 13 Republicans
2012 Vote: Obama 52, Romney 47
Summary: Republicans effectively maximized their seats

Net Change: Democrats would gain two to four seats

To start with our look at how the Northeast could look under nonpartisan redistricting, here's Pennsylvania. This state was arguably the second most aggressive partisan gerrymander after North Carolina. The 7th District is such a Rorschach-style mess that it is almost comical if it were not so unfair. That district is radically redrawn in this map, which splits zero municipalities aside from Philadelphia, which is too big for one district.

Overall, we estimate that under this map, Democrats would have won two to four more seats with a most likely gain of four.

The 15th District contains the Lehigh Valley and becomes 7.6 points more Democratic. Republican Rep. Charlie Dent is quite entrenched, but Obama's 4.6 point win makes it quite possible he could have been defeated, even if unlikely. The 17th to the north drops Schuylkill County and Republican Rep. Lou Barletta's base in Hazelton. Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright would have been heavily favored here.

The Harrisburg region is united into a single 11th district. With his base in Schuylkill County, moderate Democratic Rep. Tim Holden would have been a solid favorite to win re-election, despite Romney's 10-point win. Roughly two-thirds of Holden's old district is contained here and the new district is barely any more Republican than the version Holden easily held all last decade.

In the west, Erie is no longer cracked between two seats and the 3rd District becomes 12.2 points better for Democrats. Romney only won it by 0.5 percent and Obama actually carried it by 4.2 in 2008. Even John Kerry just barely won this seat. Furthermore, Democrats typically overperform Obama's vote share in western Pennsylvania, with Sen. Bob Casey winning the district by nearly two points. Given how Republican Rep. Mike Kelly won by 14.5 percent over a nobody, I believe he would have narrowly lost with a serious opponent. Given the margin though, this seat could have gone either way.

Head below the fold for a look at the remainder of the Keystone State and the rest of the Northeast.

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8:09 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Redistricting: It's no secret that gerrymandering has given the GOP a massive firewall when it comes to defending their House majority. Even in 2012, when Democratic House candidates won more votes than Republicans, Team Blue came nowhere close to flipping the chamber. In a new piece, Stephen Wolf demonstrates how gerrymandering cost the Democrats critical seats in the Northeast, and creates non-partisan maps that would better reflect the will of voters while keeping communities intact.

8:26 AM PT (Jeff Singer): PA-08: The GOP may finally have a candidate for this open swing seat. State Rep. Scott Petri has formed an exploratory committee, though he hasn't committed to anything yet. A few other Republicans have been name-dropped but no one else has shown much public interest in this suburban Philadelphia district, but it's too early to say that Petri will have the field to himself if he gets in. Things are competitive on the Democratic side, with state Rep. Steve Santarsiero facing 2014 candidate Shaughnessy Naughton.

12:13 PM PT: KY-Gov: More to come:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ Election review shows Matt Bevin holding 83-vote lead in Kentucky's GOP primary for governor.
@KThomasDC

12:18 PM PT: But maybe not just yet:

Comer camp: "Commissioner Comer is currently in Florida spending time with his family. He will issue a statement tomorrow afternoon" #kygov
@mkraju

1:05 PM PT: NH-01: The bumbling University of New Hampshire has offered us yet another lesson in their ongoing public seminar titled "How Not to Conduct a Poll." Their latest survey was taken over a 17-day period from May 6 to May 22, or about five times as long as it should have. Pollster Andy Smith offered the excuse that lengthy field period was due to the end of the school year, but then he had the chutzpah to claim it was a feature, not a bug!

Smith said that the long completion time allowed UNH to "catch this trend"—the trend supposedly being a decline in embattled GOP Rep. Frank Guinta's favorability numbers. First off, if conducting a poll for 17 days is such a good idea, then why doesn't everyone do it all the time? (Hint: It's because it's not.) Secondly, what would you say if I told you that Guinta's more popular now than he was before his campaign finance scandal broke wide open a couple of weeks ago?

Well, it's true, even by UNH's own numbers! Currently, 30 percent of 1st District voters have a positive view of Guinta while 40 percent view him negatively, a net score of -10. But back in February, Guinta's favorables stood at 23-36, for a net of -13—three points worse than now. Even more amusingly, New Hampshire's other member of the House, 2nd District Democrat Annie Kuster, has a very similar 24-38 favorability rating, and she's not embroiled in any high-profile scandals that have prompted fellow party members to ask for her resignation. None of this adds up.

As we've demonstrated time and time and time again, UNH is simply a terrible pollster that has never responded to any criticism of its methodology. But by virtue of serving as the most prominent polling outfit in a volatile state that receives an outsize share of political attention, Smith and his school have continually ensured that their "data," such as it is, gets plenty of play. They should, however, be shunned until they clean up their act. It's long past time they do.

1:28 PM PT: KY-Gov: After a recanvass of returns in Kentucky's 120 counties, the results of the May 19 Republican primary for governor haven't budged an inch, with businessman Matt Bevin maintaining his 83-vote lead on state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. Comer has until Friday to decide whether to seek a recount, which he'd have to pay for. While 83 votes might not seem like a lot—it's just 0.04 percent of all votes cast—that's actually a fairly large number to flip in a recount, particularly since there were no reports of widespread irregularities on election night.

2:19 PM PT: WATN?: Whoa. Did anyone see this coming? Former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, a Republican who represented Illinois for almost two decades, was just indicted on charges that he lied to the FBI and "structured" financial transactions to avoid IRS detection. Prosecutors have not made details of the allegations known yet, but according to unnamed sources cited by BuzzFeed, the charges could stem from actions Hastert took before entering politics all the way back in 1980 (though you'd have to wonder about the statute of limitations if so).

Hastert unexpectedly became speaker in 1999, after Newt Gingrich resigned from the House following a terrible election year for the GOP in 1998, and Rep. Bob Livingston, his designated successor, also resigned following revelations that he'd had an affair. During his tenure, Hastert was widely regarded as a figurehead, with real power residing in Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, whose career ended amid corruption allegations.

Hastert, by contrast, followed Gingrich's path: After disastrous midterms in 2006 that saw Democrats retake the chamber, he, too, quit the House. By that time, Nancy Pelosi had become speaker, and in a further insult, Democrat Bill Foster picked up Hastert's seat in a special election. Hastert always maintained a low profile in D.C., and he's barely been heard from since he left Washington. But now it looks like we're about to hear a whole lot more.

2:20 PM PT (Jeff Singer): AK-AL: Longtime Republican Rep. Don Young hasn't faced a real primary challenge ever since his razor-thin win against future Gov. Sean Parnell in 2008, but that may be about to change. State Rep. Lance Pruitt, a former majority leader, says that unidentified people are encouraging him to take on Young, and he's going to think about it after the legislative session is over. Pruitt doesn't seem incredibly excited about the prospect though, saying that he respects Young and wants to decide if the congressman is "still effective in D.C., as a Republican."

Young remains a powerful force on Capitol Hill, though his insulting remarks about a high school student's suicide last year got him into trouble. However, if Pruitt runs, he might end up helping the incumbent. Roll Call reported that tea partying businessman Joe Miller was looking at a primary run, and former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell is also a possible candidate. It's unclear if anywhere near a majority of GOP primary voters are ready to dump Young but if they are, the congressman will be happy to see his challengers divide the vote.

2:41 PM PT (Jeff Singer): WA-01: A few days ago, GOP state Rep. Elizabeth Scott quietly filed papers to take on Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene, and it doesn't appear that she's just testing the waters. Scott only says she'll make "a more formal announcement at a later date," and the state GOP chair is acting like she's in. This isn't going to be an easy pickup for Team Red though: Obama won this northern Washington seat 54-43, and DelBene easily held on during last year's Republican wave.

2:53 PM PT: AZ-Sen: It seems like most folks were unprepared for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick's Tuesday announcement that she'd run against John McCain for Senateincluding fellow Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who'd never ruled out a run of her own. Sinema reacted warily (perhaps even testily) to the news, saying she was "pretty surprised" and telling a reporter who asked her opinion of Kirkpatrick's chances that he'd "probably have to call Ann and ask her."

Sinema'd always seemed like the more ambitious of the two, transmogrifying over the years from a Ralph Nader staffer to a self-described "Prada socialist" to a card-carrying member of the Blue Dog Coalition. But both women had been waiting on the outcome of a Republican lawsuit seeking to invalidate Arizona's current congressional districts, a case that had seemingly put state politics on hold.

Yet Kirkpatrick chose to be bold in the face of uncertainty, and that may have cost Sinema. Despite Sinema's rightward peregrination, Kirkpatrick has more experience winning over conservative voters, and her decision to jump in was met with excitement and acclaim in Democratic circles. Sinema could certainly still run, and if the GOP eviscerates her district, she very well might. But the longer Kirkpatrick laps up attention (and money), the harder it'll be for Sinema to get traction in a primary battle.

Discuss
Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) questions witnesses at the Senate Finance Committee in Washington May 21, 2013.  A Senate panel will try on Tuesday to pry more details out of current and former officials of the Internal Revenue Service about the agency's target
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey
Leading Off:

PA-Sen: In the last few months, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey has looked like the favorite in light-blue Pennsylvania. Two polls gave him a strong job approval rating, and national Democrats aren't happy to see their 2010 nominee, ex-Rep. Joe Sestak, making another run. However, a new survey from Public Policy Polling paints a very different picture of next year's Keystone State contest and finds that while Toomey starts with a lead, he's far from secure in a race that could decide control of the Senate.

44-35 vs. ex-Rep. Chris Carney

44-35 vs. state Sen. Vincent Hughes

44-34 vs. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski

46-41 vs. ex-Gov. Ed Rendell

42-38 vs. 2010 nominee Joe Sestak

44-33 vs. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams

Against all comers, Toomey takes between 42 and 46 percent of the vote, a bit far from the 50 percent mark he'd like to be at. PPP finds Toomey's approval rating underwater at 30-37, not a great place for an incumbent in an unfriendly state to be. A March Quinnipiac poll and May survey from Harper Polling gave Toomey a 49-24 and 54-32 approval rating respectively, and there's no easy explanation for why PPP finds something so different.

Head below the fold for more.

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Map of Texas' current state Senate districts (2015)
Texas' state Senate districts (click to enlarge)

In a move that election law expert Rick Hasen characterizes as "surprising," the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a potentially major case that could upend long-settled jurisprudence on the meaning of "one person, one vote." The suit, Evenwel v. Abbott, argues that the state of Texas should draw lines for its state Senate that equalize the voting population in each district, not the total population, as they do now.

And if the court were to side with the plaintiffs, Republicans would benefit. That's because there are fewer registered voters in urban, Democratic-leaning districts and far more in conservative rural seats. For instance, on the congressional level, California's sprawling 1st District—a vast, forested region nestled along the Oregon and Nevada borders—has about 521,000 eligible voters, according to one analyst, while the compact 40th District in Los Angeles has just 262,000. (When the lines were drawn in 2011, both had populations of 702,900.) And as you might expect, the former is represented by a Republican and the latter by a Democrat.

So if districts had to balance out voting-age populations, red seats would have to shed voters to blue seats, which are home to many more non-voters, chiefly non-citizens (often Hispanics), ex-felons without voting rights, and children. This would, of course, make those blue seats redder, which is why conservative groups are pushing this suit.

What's more, while this case is focused on legislative redistricting, there's no reason any ruling here couldn't also apply to congressional redistricting—and congressional reapportionment, which would mean that blue states would also likely lose a number of seats to red states. (Texas, ironically, with its large immigrant population, would be an exception, but the districts it would drop would be Democratic ones.)

However, there's a huge problem with this case's entire premise: It's almost impossible to count voters. Leah Libresco details the many reasons why, among them the fact that the Census doesn't ask about citizenship status. While the Census Bureau does get into more detail with its annual American Community Surveys, the ACS relies on statistical sampling—something the Supreme Court specifically barred for the purposes of the traditional decennial Census itself (which is currently used both for reapportionment and redistricting purposes).

Amusingly, Republicans were the victorious plaintiffs in that case (sampling would have uncovered many missing urban voters), so they might have unwittingly boxed themselves in. They also, as Libresco points out, hate the ACS and have tried to defund it, because heaven forbid the government should ever produce any useful statistical information that looks like science.

Of course, none of this may stop the Supreme Court's conservatives, who have shown no hesitation in curtailing minority voting rights. It'll be a while before they rule, though, but if they enshrine "one registered voter, one vote" into law, we'll be in for some serious upheaval.

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9:10 AM PT (Jeff Singer): PA-Sen: In the last few months, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey has looked like the favorite in light-blue Pennsylvania. Two polls gave him a strong job approval rating, and national Democrats aren't happy to see their 2010 nominee, ex-Rep. Joe Sestak, making another run. However, a new survey from Public Policy Polling paints a very different picture of next year's Keystone State contest and finds that while Toomey starts with a lead, he's far from secure in a race that could decide control of the Senate.

• 44-35 vs. ex-Rep. Chris Carney

• 44-35 vs. state Sen. Vincent Hughes

• 44-34 vs. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski

• 46-41 vs. ex-Gov. Ed Rendell

• 42-38 vs. 2010 nominee Joe Sestak

• 44-33 vs. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams

Against all comers, Toomey takes between 42 and 46 percent of the vote, a bit far from the 50 percent mark he'd like to be at. PPP finds Toomey's approval rating underwater at 30-37, not a great place for an incumbent in a hostile state to be. A March Quinnipiac poll and May survey from Harper Polling gave Toomey a 49-24 and 54-32 approval rating respectively, and there's no easy explanation for why PPP finds something so different.

With the exception of Rendell, none of Toomey's prospective foes are well known: At least 70 percent of respondents have no opinion of Carney, Hughes, Pawlowski, or Williams. Sestak, who lost to Toomey 51-49 in 2010, is also anonymous to 54 percent of the state, but he has a narrow 24-22 rating from people who remember him. Sestak's built-in name recognition helps explain why he performs so much better than the four mostly-unknown Democrats. Sestak does a better job unifying his party at this early stage and he keeps more independents in the undecided column (though he performs slightly worse with the independents who have made up their minds). As the campaign progresses, Sestak and any other Democrats who run should pick up more support from Democrats as they become better known.

Right now, Sestak and Pawlowski are the only Democrats running. Carney, Hughes, and Williams have all expressed interest, though they've been silent about their plans over the last few months. There's no sign that Rendell wants to be a Senate candidate (though he plays one on TV), which may be just as well, since he posts a meh 42-47 favorable rating four years after leaving office.

While Sestak polls the best of the five Democrats and came close to beating Toomey in the 2010 GOP wave, the national and state parties are wary of him. Sestak has had a bad relationship with these groups ever since he successfully challenged party-switching incumbent Arlen Specter in the 2010 primary. Insiders believe that Sestak then proceeded to run an amateurish race, complaining about how little he coordinated with the rest of the party and relied on family members rather than professionals to staff his campaign. So far, Sestak has done little to reassure his critics that this time will be different, and his weak initial fundraising has only made things worse. Fairly or not, the Democratic establishment is convinced Sestak will cost them a pickup and they've been shopping for another candidate.

Pawlowski's weak 2014 gubernatorial campaign didn't leave anyone impressed, and he's going to need things to go a lot differently if he's going to emerge as a credible threat to Sestak. But the DSCC's top recruit Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro just turned them down and it's possible that when all is said and done, national Democrats will need to bite the bullet and choose between Pawlowski and Sestak.

Democrats need to net four seats to flip the Senate (five if they lose the White House) and Pennsylvania is likely to be a major target. Team Blue is going to be happy to see a poll showing Toomey vulnerable after months of pessimism, but we have a long way to go here. Toomey has worked hard to define himself as a moderate, and he'll have more than enough cash. Democratic infighting could also leave their eventual nominee bankrupt in this expensive state, and tensions between Sestak and the establishment could cause problems if he's their nominee again. This is going to be a key race in the battle for the Senate, and both parties will be watching all the developments closely.

9:43 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NJ-02, State Assembly: Max Pizarro at PolitickerNJ has out-nerded even us with his detailed look at New Jersey's 2017 state Senate contests. However, a state Assembly contest this November could have real ramifications for Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo next year.

Democrats have spent the last decade trying to convince state Sen. Jeff Van Drew to take on LoBiondo in this Obama 54-45 seat. Van Drew is once again mulling a bid, but his decision may depend on the fate of his protege Assemblyman Rob Andrzejczak this year. Andrzejczak is defending a 53-46 Obama seat and Pizarro argues that if he loses, Van Drew will be pressured to stay in the legislature to preserve South Jersey political power. Of course, it's quite possible that Van Drew will pass on another bid against LoBiondo even if Andrzejczak prevails, but it sounds like we won't get a decision until November at the earliest.

9:57 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Nashville Mayor: On Tuesday, the local SEIU endorsed real estate executive Bill Freeman, making it the first major group to get involved in this crowded race. SEIU Local 205 has a good win-record in Nashville politics, though they backed Bob Clement in his unsuccessful 2007 campaign here. Recent polls from Freeman and rival Howard Gentry show the wealthy Freeman well-positioned to advance to the runoff, though we have a long time to go before the August primary.

10:13 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NH-Gov: The University of New Hampshire takes a very early look at next year's gubernatorial contest. Like PPP found last month, they have Gov. Maggie Hassan with sky-high approval ratings. However, national Democrats are trying to recruit Hassan to face Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte next year and they polled matchups between Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and two of his Democratic colleagues. Sununu takes 40 percent against each of them, which Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas scoop up a similar 23 and 26 percent respectively. PPP found a Sununu-Van Ostern duel looking quite a bit different, with the Republican only leading 37-34.

10:55 AM PT (Jeff Singer): IN-Gov: Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has been openly considering a run against GOP incumbent Mike Pence for the last few weeks, and it sounds like she's about to jump in. IndyPolitics reports that Ritz will announce her campaign next week: If she gets in, she'll face 2012 nominee John Gregg and state Sen. Karen Tallian. However, she won't need to worry about state House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, who tells Howey Politics that he's not going to run.

11:44 AM PT (Jeff Singer): AZ-01: Both parties were caught by surprise on Tuesday when Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her Senate campaign. There are plenty of potential candidates from each party who are eyeing her swingy northern Arizona seat, but most of them are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court decision to rule on the constitutionality of the state's independent redistricting commission. If the court rules the GOP's way, they'll have the opportunity to make this district as tough for Democrats to win as they can.

On the blue side, state Sen. Catherine Miranda wasted little time making her interest known, though she represents almost none of AZ-01 in the legislature. Former state Rep. Chris Deschene, who lost the 2010 secretary of state race 58-42, is also considering according to his spokeswoman. Deschene got plenty of attention last year when he ran for president of the Navajo Nation but was disqualified for not speaking Navajo fluently. Local Democrats say he'd be a top recruit, though he'd need to give up his post at the U.S. Department of Energy. Coconino County Board Chair Elizabeth Archuleta also says she's thinking about running, while Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon hasn't ruled anything out.

The Arizona Republic's Rebekah Sanders also mentions two other potential Democratic candidates, though there's no word if they're interested. State Sen. Carlyle Begay's district is entirely located in the 1st, though his support for this year's GOP state budget could be a liability in a primary. State Sen. Barbara McGuire's seat is split between AZ-01 and the safely red AZ-04, but she'd be an interesting recruit. In the last two cycles, McGuire pulled off narrow wins in a district that Romney carried 53-45, so she has experience winning in a difficult seat. Democratic consultant Andy Barr also tossed in 2014 gubernatorial nominee Fred DuVal's name, though DuVal previously said he's only interested in another statewide bid.

On the GOP side, rancher and 2014 candidate Gary Kiehne so far has the primary to himself, but he should have company soon. Ex-state House Speaker Andy Tobin, who narrowly beat Kiehne in the primary, confirms that he's interested but he's waiting for the redistricting case to play out. State Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce has also confirmed his interest, and Speaker David Gowan's office has also said he might go for it. Most of Gowan's seat is in AZ-02 and he could also challenge Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the primary, but Gowan is likely to carve out a district for himself if he gets the chance.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu also didn't rule anything out. Babeu's 2012 bid for the neighboring AZ-04 ended after it emerged that he had dated an undocumented immigrant and then threatened to deport him. Babeu did win re-election that November and he went on to star in a spot for 2014 gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones, so maybe enough time has passed that he can run another serious House campaign. Some other potential GOP contenders include ex-Secretary of State and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Ken Bennett, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans, 2012 nominee Jonathan Paton, state Sen. Steve Smith, and state Residential Utility Consumer Office Director David Tenney.

1:54 PM PT (Jeff Singer): AZ-01: Babeu wasted little time releasing a survey from MBQF Consulting that shows him ahead in a hypothetical primary, albeit with a truckload of undecideds. Babeu leads Tobin 17-10, with Kiehne at 8, and 65 percent undecided. The entire survey was conducted May 26, the day Kirkpatrick announced her departure.

2:42 PM PT (Jeff Singer): NJ-Gov: Gov. Chris Christie's 2013 re-election, held in that bygone time when "Bridgegate," probably only meant someone was cheating during a card game, was a completely snoozer. However, 2017 is another story. The primaries are only two years away, and the Democrats especially are digging in for a long campaign.

Former Ambassador Phil Murphy, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop have all been working hard to make connections with local Democrats and increase their name recognition around the state. We could also see state Sen. Richard Codey, who served as acting governor from 2004 to 2005, state Sen. Ron Rice, and Assemblyman Troy Singleton get in. Additionally, Assemblyman Louis Greenwald might be interested, though he could also try for speaker.

On the GOP side, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno's name has been in contention for a while. However, state Sen. Kip Bateman, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, state Sen. and 2006 Senate nominee Tom Kean Jr., and Assemblyman Jay Webber are also potential candidates. We have a very long time to go before 2017 but in a state as big and expensive as New Jersey, serious candidates need to start gearing up early.

3:06 PM PT (Jeff Singer): NY-11: Ex-Rep. Michael McMahon has spent the last few cycles turning down Democratic recruitment efforts, but he's looking to return to elected office in another capacity. The Staten Island Democratic Party is nominating McMahon to serve as their standard bearer in this year's contest for district attorney and now that GOP state Sen. Andrew Lanza has declined to run, McMahon should start out the favorite. National Democrats held out some hope that McMahon would challenge newly-elected GOP Rep. Dan Donovan next year, but it is not to be.

3:15 PM PT (Jeff Singer): PA State Senate: Only last year, Keystone Democrats held out hope that they could finally end two decades of GOP control, or at least get close enough to finish the job in 2016. However, redistricting and the red wave allowed the Republicans to expand their majority from a close 27-23 to a formidable 30-20, and they may have an extra seat soon. On Wednesday, Democratic state Sen. Matt Smith announced he would resign to take a post at the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, and it's not going to be easy for Team Blue to hold onto his 56-43 Romney Western Pennsylvania seat.

3:46 PM PT: Redistricting: In a move that election law expert Rick Hasen characterizes as "surprising," the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a potentially major case that could upend long-settled jurisprudence on the meaning of "one person, one vote." The suit, Evenwel v. Abbott, argues that the state of Texas should draw lines for its state Senate that equalize the voting population in each district, not the total population, as they do now.

And if the court were to side with the plaintiffs, Republicans would benefit. That's because there are fewer registered voters in urban, Democratic-leaning districts and far more in conservative rural seats. For instance, on the congressional level, California's sprawling 1st District—a vast, forested region nestled along the Oregon and Nevada borders—has about 521,000 eligible voters, according to one analyst, while the compact 40th District in Los Angeles has just 262,000. (When the lines were drawn in 2011, both had populations of 702,900.) And as you might expect, the former is represented by a Republican and the latter by a Democrat.

So if districts had to balance out voting-age populations, red seats would have to shed voters to blue seats, which are home to many more non-voters, chiefly non-citizens (often Hispanics), ex-felons without voting rights, and children. This would, of course, make those blue seats redder, which is why conservative groups are pushing this suit. What's more, while this case is focused on legislative redistricting, there's no reason any ruling here couldn't also apply to congressional redistricting—and congressional reapportionment, which would mean that blue states would also lose a number of seats to red states.

But there's a huge problem with this case's entire premise: It's almost impossible to count voters. Leah Libresco details the many reasons why, among them the fact that the Census doesn't ask about citizenship status. While the Census Bureau does get into more detail with its annual American Community Surveys, the ACS relies on statistical sampling—something the Supreme Court specifically barred for the purposes of the traditional decennial Census itself (which is currently used both for reapportionment and redistricting purposes).

Amusingly, Republicans were the victorious plaintiffs in that case (sampling would have uncovered many missing urban voters), so they might have unwittingly boxed themselves in. They also, as Libresco points out, hate the ACS and have tried to defund it, because heaven forbid the government should ever produce any useful statistical information that looks like science.

Of course, none of this may stop the Supreme Court's conservatives, who have shown no hesitation in curtailing minority voting rights. It'll be a while before they rule, though, but if they enshrine "one registered voter, one vote" into law, we'll be in for some serious upheaval.

Discuss
Pinal County sheriff officer Paul Babeu (R) and Maricopa County sheriff officer Joe Arpaio (L) speak at a news conference after a Pinal County sheriff officer was shot with an AK-47-type style weapon by suspected drug smugglers in Pinal County, Arizona April 30, 2010. Officers are searching the area for 5 men who were involved in the shooting along Interstate 8. REUTERS/Joshua Lott (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST) - RTR2DBIV
Republican Paul Babeu may get a shot at redemption after his 2012 House campaign collapsed
Both parties were caught by surprise on Tuesday when Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her Senate campaign. There are plenty of potential candidates from each party who are eyeing her swingy northern Arizona seat, but most of them are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court decision to rule on the constitutionality of the state's independent redistricting commission. If the court rules the GOP's way, they'll have the opportunity to make this district as tough for Democrats to win as they can.

On the blue side, state Sen. Catherine Miranda wasted little time making her interest known, though she represents almost none of AZ-01 in the legislature. Former state Rep. Chris Deschene, who lost the 2010 secretary of state race 58-42, is also considering according to his spokeswoman. Deschene got plenty of attention last year when he ran for president of the Navajo Nation but was disqualified for not speaking Navajo fluently. Local Democrats say he'd be a top recruit, though he'd need to give up his post at the U.S. Department of Energy. Coconino County Board Chair Elizabeth Archuleta also says she's thinking about running, while Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon hasn't ruled anything out.

The Arizona Republic's Rebekah Sanders also mentions two other potential Democratic candidates, though there's no word if they're interested. State Sen. Carlyle Begay's district is entirely located in the 1st, though his support for this year's GOP state budget could be a liability in a primary. State Sen. Barbara McGuire's seat is split between AZ-01 and the safely red AZ-04, but she'd be an interesting recruit. In the last two cycles, McGuire pulled off narrow wins in a district that Romney carried 53-45, so she has experience winning in a difficult seat. Democratic consultant Andy Barr also tossed in 2014 gubernatorial nominee Fred DuVal's name, though DuVal previously said he's only interested in another statewide bid.

On the GOP side, rancher and 2014 candidate Gary Kiehne so far has the primary to himself, but he should have company soon. Ex-state House Speaker Andy Tobin, who narrowly beat Kiehne in the primary, confirms that he's interested but he's waiting for the redistricting case to play out. State Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce has also confirmed his interest, and Speaker David Gowan's office has also said he might go for it. Most of Gowan's seat is in AZ-02 and he could also challenge Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the primary, but Gowan is likely to carve out a district for himself if he gets the chance.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu also didn't rule anything out. Babeu's 2012 bid for the neighboring AZ-04 ended after it emerged that he had dated an undocumented immigrant and then threatened to deport him. Babeu did win re-election that November and he went on to star in a spot for 2014 gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones, so maybe enough time has passed that he can run another serious House campaign. Some other potential GOP contenders include ex-Secretary of State and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Ken Bennett, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans, 2012 nominee Jonathan Paton, state Sen. Steve Smith, and state Residential Utility Consumer Office Director David Tenney.

Discuss
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