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Leading Off:

OH-Gov: Quinnipiac's new Ohio poll offers their first-ever horserace matchups featuring GOP Gov. John Kasich, but the number to watch out for at the moment is his approval rating. Somehow his numbers have spiked to 53-32, up from 42-35 just a couple of months ago. Whenever you see a big jump like that over a short period of time, you ought to be a little bit skeptical; notably, Quinnipiac's writeup doesn't really try to explain why Kasich would have soared in such a short period of time. So I'd keep an eye on these figures to see if they stay where they are when Quinnipiac is next in the field, or whether they drift back downward into the low 40s Kasich saw all last year.

The good news for Democrats, though, is that he's far from dominant in the head-to-heads:

• 44-38 vs. former state AG Richard Cordray

• 45-38 vs. former Rep. Betty Sutton

• 44-36 vs. Rep. Tim Ryan

• 45-35 vs. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald

It's actually has to be a bit painful for Kasich to scratch together an approval score over 50 percent but to see himself mired at 45 percent against a variety of unknown candidates. And they really are unknown: The most recognizable is Cordray, and yet 62 percent of respondents say they don't have an opinion of him. (FitzGerald trails the pack at 80 percent unknown.) This is mirrored in Kasich's generic re-elects, where 46 percent of voters say they'd like to see him win another term versus 36 percent who do not.

That said, it's not like Kasich will be a pushover. Democrats lack a dominant candidate, and Kasich will have no shortage of money. But it's still very early, and whoever winds up as the Dem nominee will make up that name recognition gap in a hurry, so this seat is very much in play.

Intro

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Senate:

IA-Sen: With establishment fave Tom Latham now out of the picture, national Republicans are hoping for someone less crazy than Steve King to run for Senate, but it doesn't seem like anyone's really willing to step up. Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has said she's considering a bid, has now made it explicit that she won't run if King does. I can't say I'm too surprised: If Latham feared a primary battle with King, what chance does the less-accomplished Reynolds stand against him?

MA-Sen: Remarkably, it looks like all three Republicans running for Senate in Massachusetts—Dan Winslow, Gabriel Gomez, and Michael Sullivan—have submitted enough signatures to appear on the ballot for the April 30 primary. Petition-gathering is actually tricky business for Republicans in the Bay State,  but most notable is that Sullivan managed his feat using only volunteers. I have to wonder about the quality of all those signatures, but no one appears to be eager to issue any challenges, probably because they're all worried about whether theirs would hold up if a reciprocal challenge were filed. So, I guess, game on!

Meanwhile, abortion rights group NARAL has, unsurprisingly, endorsed Ed Markey in the Democratic primary. (Given Stephen Lynch's anti-choice record, this one is a no-brainer.) The group says they've donated the maximum $5,000 allowable by law to his campaign, and they also say they'll provide field support for Markey as well.

MI-Sen: Dem Sen. Carl Levin keeps pushing back his timetable. In early February, a spokesperson said he'd decide whether to seek re-election "within the next three weeks." That didn't happen, of course, but now Levin himself says he'll make up his mind in the "next couple weeks."

Gubernatorial:

FL-Gov: I think the fact that the Florida press is even asking potential insurgents whether they'd consider a run against Rick Scott in the GOP primary is kinda awesome, even if it hasn't yielded much so far. But hope springs eternal: State House Speaker Will Weatherford doesn't sound especially enthused, saying he doesn't "have any plans" to challenge Scott, but he didn't rule it out, either. The fact that prominent Republicans aren't saying, simply, "No. I support our governor for re-election, end of story" is itself a story—and one I hope we keep hearing more of.

NJ-Gov: I don't think this is quite the black swan event we need to derail Chris Christie from re-election, but this ugly new revelation may start to tarnish the Sandy halo he's been wearing for four months:

In the days after Hurricane Sandy, the Christie administration was made aware of cheaper options to sweep away the storm's mess, but chose to continue for about three months with a no-bid contract awarded to AshBritt, The Star-Ledger has learned.

One of AshBritt's competitors, Ceres Environmental Services, sent a letter to the Treasury Department soon after the storm arguing taxpayers were being overcharged by Ash-Britt's "unreasonably high" rates and offered to do the work for a fraction of the cost.

Of course Christie's defending the decision, but it looks like there may have been a shady reason for it:
AshBritt suggested to former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a close friend of Christie whose lobbying firm represents the company, that it would be right for New Jersey, Barbour has said. Christie has said Barbour recommended AshBritt, but said politics played no role.
Oh, if Christie says politics played no role, then I'm sure he's telling god's honest truth!

PA-Gov: Here's about the surest sign imaginable that Rep. Allyson Schwartz is running for governor: She just stepped down as finance chair of the DCCC, a job she would have had a hard time carrying out if she were also waging a statewide campaign of her own. Schwartz's appointment to this position was only announced in December; at the time, I observed:

Presumably the demands of these roles (particularly Schwartz's) would make runs for higher office less likely, though the DCCC could always pick replacements.
And indeed, they have: Rep. Jim Himes (CT-04) will take over the finance spot. He's held leadership roles in the D-Trip in the past, and he's well-suited to the fundraising game, as a former Goldman Sachs executive who represents one of the wealthiest districts in the country. As for Schwartz, I have to imagine there's no turning back now, since you don't give up a post like this only to not run for higher office.

VA-Gov: GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling doesn't want you to pay too much attention to the toplines of his new poll from McLaughlin & Associates, because, predictably, they suck: Democrat Terry McAuliffe edges Republican Ken Cuccinelli 38-37, with Bolling taking 15 percent as an independent. That's basically the same as every other poll we've seen. Bolling, though, is trying to con us—and himself—into believing the question they actually lead with, in which he says two-thirds of respondents "would consider voting for an independent candidate." "Would consider voting" is a seriously low bar, particularly since many voters like to view themselves as "independent." But if it's enough to convince Bolling, who am I to complain?

House:

AZ-09: Roll Call's Farm Team column heads to Arizona, where the most notable snippet may be Abby Livingston's claim that the local GOP's top choice to take on freshman Dem Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is... ex-Rep. Ben Quayle?!? Wow! Quayle could have run for this seat last year, and perhaps he should have, seeing as he got beaten (albeit very narrowly) by fellow GOP Rep. David Schweikert in a redistricting-induced primary. So yeah, Junior Quayle has some name rec, but as Arjun Jaikumar puts it, it "derives from being a) a dumbass and b) the son of a dumbass."

FL-13: I don't fault Joshua Miller for trying, but this article appears every two years like clockwork:

Florida Rep. C.W. Bill Young, 82, said Thursday he has not made a decision yet on whether to seek re-election in 2014.

"I never make any announcement or, actually, a decision this — this is way too early!" the Republican told CQ Roll Call during votes on Capitol Hill.

He's got to retire some day, right? And when he does, his seat will be a ripe pickup opportunity for Democrats, seeing as he's one of just a handful of Republicans whose district was carried by Barack Obama. Until then, though, I don't suspect we'll have much luck.

IL-02: Wow, this is a profile in courage. EMILY's List is endorsing Robin Kelly now—after she's already won the Democratic primary, which is the only race that matters. I mean, I shouldn't be churlish, right? After all, Kelly could use the help in the general, where she faces Republican Paul McKinley, "a convicted felon who served nearly 20 years in state prison for burglaries, armed robberies and aggravated battery." So, thanks for the assist!

Meanwhile, back in the land of things that matter, I'd encourage you to read this post-mortem on the race by SouthtownStar reporter Natasha Korecki. She goes beyond the stale (and simplistic) debate over the role Mike Bloomberg's money played in the race and focuses on what actually happened inside the district, and what Kelly did right that led to her success.

Other Races:

NYC Mayor: So far as I know, not a single dollar has been spent on paid media in the incredibly-slow-to-start Democratic primary for NYC mayor, but one thing does keep changing: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's standing keeps inching up, at least according to Quinnipiac. If you look at the most recent prior poll each time, any movement looks like noise, but if you stretch all the way back to their first survey in May of last year, things actually look a bit more interesting:

Candidate 27-Feb-13 16-Jan-13 21-Nov-12 15-Aug-12 10-May-12
Christine Quinn 37 35 32 29 26
Bill de Blasio 14 11 9 9 10
Bill Thompson 11 10 10 10 13
John Liu 9 9 5 9 7
For everyone else, the shifts are so small that they really do appear to be noise, but in a year's time, Quinn has moved up a full 11 points—and she hasn't even formally announced her campaign yet. Because it's still so early (even though it's "late"), I don't think the outcome of the primary is fore-ordained, particularly since labor and the Working Families Party will work very hard for de Blasio. But Quinn has to like the fact that she keeps gaining almost effortlessly and is already close to the 40 percent mark she'd need to avoid a runoff.

Grab Bag:

Maps: The recent debate over how the presidential election would have played out differently if it were run in an alternate-universe of differently-designed states (triggered by that map of 50 equipopulous states) has reared its head one more time. Nate Cohn uses that as a jumping-off point for talking about the arbitrariness of how state boundaries got drawn historically, and how things might have shaken out last year if a little nip or tuck had been made 200 years ago. (David Jarman)

Senate: Here's a neat framework for thinking about the Senate: totaling up the presidential vote for all the states in each of the three Senate classes. That's what Larry Sabato lieutenant Kyle Kondik did, and it explains what a tough road to hoe the Dems have in the 2014 cycle. Class II (the one up in 2014) has the worst presidential performance, averaged out over 2000-2012, of the three, at 46.6 percent Democratic over the last four elections. Class I (the one we just elected in 2012) is the best at 50.7, which may have contributed to how we overperformed expectations last cycle. Class III (the one that got decimated in 2010, but is poised to snap back in 2016) is in the middle at 48.2. (David Jarman)

VAWA: For the third time in just two months, John Boehner has broken the seemingly dead "Hastert rule" to pass a major piece of legislation—in this case, the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which expanded protections for LGBT and Native American women. House Republicans were dead-set against the bill and instead proposed their own which deliberately left out these groups, but it went down to a resounding defeat. Two Democrats voted for the GOP version, though: Mike McIntyre, from the very conservative NC-07, and Dan Lipinski, from the blue IL-03. It's not like progressives needed another reason to primary Lipinski, but if he's willing to act as a stooge in the War on Women, well, he's offered us another one.

As for the vote on final passage, 138 members of the Republican caucus defied Boehner to oppose the bill, while 87 joined all 199 Democrats (including even Lipinski and McIntyre) to pass it. What's interesting is that there are quite a few vulnerable names on the list of GOP "nays," and a couple of notable incumbents weren't even present for the vote (Gary Miller and Tom Reed). Looking at the list, who stands out to you most?

WATN?: Now we're cooking with gas: Justin Lamar Sternad, David Rivera's usefulless idiot in last year's FL-26 Democratic primary hijinks, has switched his plea over campaign finance fraud charges to "guilty" and is now cooperating with investigators. Sternad's indictment mentions unnamed "co-conspirators," so the feds may now be using him to bear down on GOP consultant Ana Alliegro, a key facilitator, and perhaps Rivera himself, who apparently masterminded and funded the plan to have Lamar send out mailers attacking Joe Garcia in the primary.

The plan backfired spectacularly, of course: Garcia won the Democratic nomination handily and then trounced Rivera, in part because this story got such wide play last year. Yep, this one definitely belongs in the "hoist with his own petard" files... and it may well get worse before it gets better for Rivera.

Wisconsin: As they've seen just about everywhere else in the country, attitudes about gay marriage in Wisconsin have shifted considerably, according to PPP's latest poll. Forty-six percent of voters think it should be illegal and 44 percent say it should be permitted, but that's a big change from the 50-39 opposition PPP found less than two years ago. And notably, the Badger State just elected the nation's first openly gay senator last year, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who starts off with a 45-40 job approval rating. That might not sound so awesome, but as Tom Jensen points out, it's 9 net points better than GOP Sen. Ron Johnson's 37-41 score.

Speaking of Wisconsin, check out this dumbass:

Questioner: "I'm wondering about whether or not Rep. Duffy if you would support the legislation that's in the Wisconsin legislature called 'Right To Know Your Unborn Child.' And if, because you've said in the past that you are 100% pro-life, would you support federal legislation to require trans-vaginal ultrasounds for pregnant women? And if not, then why?

Duffy: "I don't know what a trans-vaginal ultrasound is?"

Questioner: "You don't?"

Duffy: "No … I haven't had one."

As Kaili Joy Gray says, "At the risk of stating the obvious, if you don't even know what a transvaginal ultrasound is... maybe you shouldn't be trying to legislate vaginas."
Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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