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Leading Off:

Counties: Here is a pretty interesting McNugget of data from a guy that our readers know and love: Greg Giroux crunched the numbers and has come up with Obama's top 10 performing counties in the November elections. Casual observers of politics might be shocked to see that five of the top ten counties (including numero uno on the list: Shannon County, South Dakota) came from states that threw their electoral votes to Mitt Romney. Behold, the power of racial voting patterns: Shannon County is largely comprised of the Pine Ridge Reservation, and three of the counties in Alabama and Mississippi were African-American majority counties. The lone contribution from Texas was Latino-majority Starr County.

All ten, in fact, were counties that were comprised of "majority-minority" populations. Which raises a fun trivia topic for dedicated DKE fans: Which county in America was Obama's best performing majority-Anglo county? Feel free to toss your answer in the comments! (Steve Singiser)

Intro

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Senate:

MT-Sen: I'm curious: Has anyone named "Champ" ever been elected to Congress? I'm asking cuz state Rep. Champ Edmunds probably isn't going to be the first, even though he just became the only Republican to openly express interest in taking on Dem Sen. Max Baucus so far. Edmunds is best known for his efforts to make voting harder, introducing a (thankfully failed) bill last year that would have eliminated same-day voter registration and accusing University of Montana students of engaging in voter fraud. Oh, and he also questioned whether a federal probe of rape cases handled by local authorities Missoula was a political ploy by Joe Biden undertaken in support of the Violence Against Women Act. Sounds like a real lovely guy!

P.S. Nope, he definitely won't be the first: Democrat James Beauchamp "Champ" Clark represented Missouri in the House for almost three decades starting in the 1890s, even serving as Speaker from 1911 to 1919. (Hat-tip: Nonpartisan)

MN-Sen: In a new interview with the National Journal on GOP recruitment woes vis-à-vis Al Franken, ex-Sen. Norm Coleman—the guy Franken ultra-narrowly turfed four years ago—is explicitly ruling out a rematch. For some reason, I was under the impression that Coleman had already said no quite some time ago, but it's not as if there was ever any real chance he might run again, so this is entirely expected. And sure, a serviceable candidate might yet emerge from the woodwork (probably some rich business-type guy), but I think Franken is going to be in better shape this cycle than his ultimate 312-vote margin of victory in 2008 might have augured.

NC-Sen: State House Speaker Thom Tillis, who has seemingly been gearing up to run against freshman Dem Sen. Kay Hagan since forever, says he won't make a formal decision until June. That follows a classic formulation for state-level officials: waiting until the end of the legislative session. Tillis, you may recall, performed abysmally in PPP's kitchen-sink GOP primary poll, taking just 2 percent, but he's term-limited out of his current job (something he even cited in his latest remarks), so that may be reason enough to make the leap.

NM-Sen: Jon Barela is the latest Republican to say he won't run for Senate against Tom Udall in 2014. Barela, you'll recall, came close to knocking off then-Rep. Martin Heinrich in NM-01 in 2010, falling short 4 percent despite the GOP wave. But now he says he has "no plans at this point" to make a Senate bid, leaving his party back at square zero. Right now, only former state party chair Allen Weh is publicly considering, while Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez are possibles.

Gubernatorial:

MA-Gov: It's important to remember that the definition of a Some Dude operates on a sliding scale. If you're running for dogcatcher (an elected position in Duxbury, VT!), no one's a Some Dude. If you're running for president, even a former governor can still be a Some Dude (see: Johnson, Gary). With statewide races, though, it gets a little trickier, and context is everything. Take, for instance, Joseph Avellone, who just announced his entry into the race for governor of Massachusetts. Avellone is a former selectman from Wellesley, a small town outside of Boston. That's not an imposing profile, but this is much more important: He's former surgeon and a top executive at Parexel International, a publicly traded clinical research company currently valued at close to $2 billion.

Avellone also has a long history of political involvement dating back over 30 years and even served on John Kerry's finance committee in 2004. In short, he's well-connected and certainly well-to-do (possibly even very rich) ... but does he have political chops? Can he raise money for himself? Can he even give a stump speech? It's hard to say whether a six-year stint on a town board offers much preparation. But the real reason I ask all these questions is, again, context. Some big-name politicians are very likely to make the race, including state Treasurer Steve Grossman and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. I'm not saying Avellone is a Some Dude—with a background like his, he definitely can't be dismissed. But will it be possible for him to gain traction against heavy hitters like Grossman and Murray? That's much harder to answer.

VA-Gov: We're on our second Virginia governor's race poll in two days, this time from Quinnipiac, and we've got a head-scratching disparity between the two of them. While PPP gave Dem Terry McAuliffe a 46-41 lead over GOPer Ken Cuccinelli, and a 40-32-15 lead in a McAuliffe/Cuccinelli/Bill Bolling three-way race, Qpac finds a much closer race, with near-ties not just in the two-way but also three-way configurations.

Quinnipiac has McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli 40-39 mano-a-mano (down from a 41-37 lead in November). Even more puzzling, it's a 34-34 tie between T-Mac and Cooch in a 3-way heat, with Bill Bolling at 13 (with no trendlines on that permutation), which—unlike PPP—suggests that Qpac has the indie candidacy of Bolling, currently the state's Republican Lt. Governor, drawing equally from both Dems and GOPers. Qpac also finds Cuccinelli's favorables above-water at 33/25, quite the turnaround from PPP's 29/45.

If you're frantically trying to unskew the polls, the answer doesn't lie in their party ID numbers: Qpac is 34D-26R-29I (with another 10 of 'other'/'don't know'), while PPP is 35D-32R-32I. Instead, it looks like the two pollsters ran into decidedly different patches of independent voters: Quinnipiac may have found a more tea-flavored batch, as their indies went 31 Cuccinelli, 22 McAuliffe, and 19 Bolling in the 3-way race, while PPP's indies apparently were more of the traditional centrist variety, breaking 30 McAuliffe, 27 Cuccinelli, and 24 Bolling. (David Jarman)

WI-Gov: I've regularly spoken out in favor of using social media to promote "draft" movements for candidates favored by the grassroots, so I'm happy to call attention to a new one. Local activists in Wisconsin are promoting the candidacy of Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca for governor, as a possible opponent for Republican Scott Walker in 2014. Barca has been a vocal critic of Walker's ever since the latter took office, and the absence of prominent names eager to take on the incumbent could make Barca an attractive choice. I haven't seen any word from Barca yet as to whether he's interested, but hopefully this draft effort will make him take notice.

House:

MS-04: Hah, wow. After excoriating sophomore GOP Rep. Steven Palazzo for his vote against Hurricane Sandy relief funds, I wondered when he'd next be visiting the New York region. (Him and what army.) Amazingly, though, he did just make the trip up here on Tuesday, specifically to visit storm-ravaged areas at the behest of fellow Republican Rep. Jon Runyan of New Jersey. It sounds like the tour had its intended effect, as Palazzo—who advocated for massive federal aid after Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown of Biloxi—now claims he has an "unwavering commitment in advocating for the next round of assistance to be considered in Congress."

Could Palazzo have genuinely feared a primary challenge from a pork barreling good ol' boy-type? Or even a comeback attempt by the man he beat two years ago, Democrat Gene Taylor, who made quite the mark lacerating Congress for inaction over Katrina? Or did a drop of conscience somehow squeak out into his teabagger soul? We'll probably never know, but let's see what happens when it's time to actually cast ballots.

NV-03: Democrats are on the hunt in Nevada's 3rd Congressional District, where GOP Rep. Joe Heck just won a second term last November. Heck fended off Democratic Assembly Speaker John Oceguera by about seven points, but his 50 percent tally, combined with the fact that Barack Obama prevailed here by about a point, means Heck will remain a target. The good news is that some very big-name local Dems already have a fresh face in mind: Democratic National Committeewoman Erin Bilbray-Kohn. According to Jon Ralston, both Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Dina Titus have touted Bilbray-Kohn to DCCC chair Steve Israel, who will meet with her next week when she visits DC for the presidential inauguration.

If the first half of Bilbray-Kohn's surname sounds familiar, that's because her dad, Jim Bilbray, represented Nevada's old 1st Congressional District from 1987 to 1995, until he was swept out in the Gingrich wave by none other than John Ensign, the now-disgraced former senator. (The 1st also happened to be Reid's old seat until Bilbray took it over when Reid was elected to the Senate.) The elder Bilbray is also a cousin of ex-Rep. Brian Bilbray (god it feels good to type that), who just lost his own re-election bid in California last year. As for Bilbray-Kohn, she runs a group called Emerge Nevada, which Ralston says "has recruited women to get involved and run." Now it may be her turn.

TX-23: San Antonio Express-News analyst Gilbert Garcia reports that the NRCC has already started recruitment efforts in Texas's 23rd Congressional District, where Democrat Pete Gallego just knocked off GOPer Quico Canseco in November, rendering him a one-term wonder. Republicans are talking to Public Utility Commissioner Rolando Pablos, whom Garcia says considered the race in both 2008 and 2010 (though I couldn't find any mention of him in the Swing State Project archives). Garcia describes Pablos as well-connected up-and-comer (he was appointed to his current post by Gov. Rick Perry), but also mentions that he's the "former chairman of the board for the long-troubled Museo Alameda," which doesn't sound like a great resume item. Anyhow, Pablos says it's too early to think about a run, but keep an eye on this one.

Other Races:

Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso recaps Tuesday night's action:

California SD-4: Republican Jim Nielsen defeated Democrat Mickey Harrington by a 2-1 margin.

Georgia HD-21: No luck for Democrat Natalie Bergeron, she was shut out of the runoff with only 21 percent of the vote. Scot Turner was first, with 46 percent, and Brian Laurens came in second with 30 percent, both Republicans. Kenneth Mimbs was last with 2 percent of the vote.

One thing of note from the no-Dem specials: You might recognize Mike Keown, the guy who lost a close race to Rep. Sanford Bishop in 2010. He's gone to a runoff with fellow Republican Dean Burke in SD-11.

Mississippi HD-59: No runoff here, as Republican Brent Powell won a majority (51.4 percent, to be precise). Bradley Lum came in second with 26 percent, and Benny Hubbard was third with 19 percent. Scot Allen (is there a T shortage in the South or something?) was last with 5 percent.

Grab Bag:

CA Redistricting: As you may know, some states stagger elections for their upper chambers: state senators serve four-year terms, with half the membership up every two years. Seems pretty reasonable, and not that different from how the U.S. Senate operates, but there's one serious problem: redistricting. Staggered terms do not mix well with new maps, particularly in California, where some areas are now represented by two senators (one elected in 2010 and one in 2012)—and some by none at all!

This is manifestly something that should not happen in a democracy, and shame on any state which adopts such a system. To deal with this, the Senate will appoint "caretaker" senators for regions which otherwise lack representation for the next two years, but still, this is ridiculous. About eight states (including some of the biggest, like Florida and Texas) use a much more sensible method: Senators' first term of every decade lasts only two years, while subsequent terms are four years. That neatly avoids this problem, and it's something every state that insists on staggering should use.

FreedomWorks: Hahahah!

Dick Armey had no idea he was speaking to the left-wing Media Matters organization during an interview last week, he told The Daily Caller Tuesday. Instead, Armey thought he was chatting with the conservative Media Research Center. [...]

When asked who he thought Media Matters was, Armey replied, "Who's the guy with the red beard that always does the show where he points out how biased the press is?"

"Oh ... the Media Research Center? Brent Bozell?" TheDC suggested. Bozell appears weekly on Sean Hannity's Fox News show to spotlight liberal media bias in a segment called "Media Mash."

And Armey's the experienced DC hand, with years of managing the press under his belt, that FreedomWorks paid so handsomely to serve as their public face. Money well spent!

Polltopia: So, remember Harper Polling, that new Republican pollster that's supposed to be the GOP's answer to PPP? (Because all the other answers—Rasmussen, We Ask America, Susquehanna—have simply been wrong.) Well, they're out with their first state-level poll ... and it leads off with a random-ass question about which convenience store Pennsylvania voters like most. (Yes, seriously.) There are a few nominally more "serious" questions later on in the poll (biggest story of the year in the state, opinions on Gov. Tom Corbett's lawsuit against the NCAA over Penn State, etc.).

But this is not how you make your bones as a pollster. Vague questions whose results no one can possibly challenge ("You say Sheetz is the best? PPP says Wawa!") make Harper seem like they're trying to evade serious scrutiny. They do claim this is only part one, but here's something else they're already doing wrong: The poll was in the field for just a single day (PDF), a serious methodological no-no that's Rasmussen's stock in trade. A pity, because we could always use more good pollsters.

Pres-by-CD: Another eight districts spanning four states:

Indiana (IN-08, IN-09)

Missouri (MO-04)

New York (NY-22, NY-23, NY-24, NY-27)

Texas (TX-13)

A mixed assortment of districts today, with few surprises. Results from Crawford County, Indiana allow us to complete the state. IN-08 and IN-09 trade relative places: While the new IN-08 gave Obama a higher percentage than new IN-09 in 2008, its 39.6 percent Obama showing this time is more than a point worse than IN-09's 40.7.

Meanwhile, in MO-04, Dem Prosecutor Teresa Hensley was considered a legitimate candidate against freshman GOPer Vicki Hartzler, but Hartzler's 25-point victory in the congressional race was very similar to Romney's 61-36 win here. (For some reason, I'm reminded of Kay Barnes' race against Sam Graves in MO-06 in 2008, when another touted Dem lost by a greater-than-expected margin.)

Another influx of New York results finishes off the upstate districts, the Binghamton-Utica-based NY-22, the Southern Tier-based NY-23, the Syracuse-based NY-24, and the Western NY-based NY-27. While NYC is the spiritual home of Daily Kos Elections, we're having some trouble getting results from the city's notoriously bad Board of Elections. (We're also missing results from Long Island, but let's just say ... that's definitely not our spiritual home.)

Interestingly, while NY-22 and NY-23 had very similar presidential performances (Obama lost both narrowly by about 1 percent with 48-49 percent of the vote), they had stunningly different congressional races: GOP Rep. Richard Hanna (arguably a true "moderate") defeated his challenger by more than 20 points in NY-22, but unheralded Dem Nate Shinagawa held GOP Rep. Tom Reed to less than 52 percent of the vote.

Further north along Lake Ontario, Obama improved his standing slightly in NY-24, up to 57 percent. Of all the Republicans who could hold such a district, it certainly wasn't the outspokenly conservative (former) GOP Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, who lost 49-43 to Dem Dan Maffei (who held the predecessor NY-25 from 2009 to 2011) with a whopping 8 percent going to a Green party candidate. In the last upstate NY district, Dem incumbent Kathy Hochul lost a 5,001-vote squeaker to Republican former Erie County Exec. Chris Collins in NY-27, ultimately unsurprising given the 55-43 Romney presidential topline.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, we have the new most Republican district in the nation: the Amarillo/panhandle-based TX-13! Mac Thornberry's district takes the cake both in terms of Obama percentage (18.5) and margin (a 62-point loss), edging out UT-03 (19.5 percent Obama, a 59-point loss). Fun (and completely arbitrary) fact about the district: There are a number of billboards advertising Indian restaurants, partially in Hindi, on I-40 west of Amarillo. The more you know! (jeffmd)

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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