• SC-01: In the end, it was the demographics that did it. Republican ex-Gov. Mark Sanford completed his comeback to Congress with a 54-45 win over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, in the special election to replace now-Sen. Tim Scott. While incendiary trespassing allegations against Sanford by his ex-wife three weeks ago appeared to make the race competitive, South Carolina's 1st Congressional District was always very red turf, having gone for Mitt Romney in last year's presidential election by a 58-40 score. Thanks to his personal troubles, Sanford managed to slice Romney's margin in half, but that still left him with more than enough room to prevail.
Now, of course, John Boehner has to welcome a nationally known embarrassment back into his caucus, and Sanford's extreme economic dystopianism should quickly align him with the troublemaker wing of the Republican Party. It's cold comfort for Democrats who were rooting for an unlikely upset, but as silver linings go, Mark Sanford is pretty good. Oh and don't forget: He still has to appear in court on Thursday over those trespassing charges. The Hill's Bob Cusack wonders if Sanford will get sworn in to Congress first. Either way, an awkward start to what ought to be a very colorful tenure.
• AK-Sen, -Gov: Now that Gov. Sean Parnell has announced he'll seek re-election to another term, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell says he's "intensifying" his efforts to explore a bid against Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and hopes to make an announcement next month. Treadwell had previously said he didn't want to run against Parnell in the GOP primary, so running for governor is now out of the picture, though he says he could try for another term as LG or just retire altogether.
But Parnell, despite his incumbency, doesn't have a free shot at renomination. As we noted late last month, former Valdez Mayor Bill Walker, who came in second in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial, plans to try again.
And Parnell's previous Democratic opponent, ex-state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, says that he, too, isn't ruling out another attempt. Berkowitz hasn't had much success running statewide, though, with failed bids for lieutenant governor (2006), Congress (2008), and governor (2010) under his belt. Berkowitz seems like a capable politician, but Alaska's red hue is just very difficult to overcome. (For what it's worth, a February PPP poll had Parnell beating Berkowitz 50-41.)
• GA-Sen: After weighing the race for several months in the wake of Sen. Saxby Chambliss's retirement announcement, Democratic Rep. John Barrow has decided not to run for Senate. Barrow would likely have been Team Blue's strongest recruit, but even though Georgia as a whole is less conservative than Barrow's 12th Congressional District, he would have faced serious obstacles. For one, Barrow would have had to introduce himself to an entire state's worth of voters, rather than continue focusing on the small portion who already know him well. For another, while Barrow's conservative views were a key part of why he was able to win re-election in 2012 despite being drawn into a much redder seat by Republicans, they might well have dampened Democratic enthusiasm for him statewide, especially among African American voters.
Now attention will focus on two other Democratic names, nonprofit CEO Michelle Nunn, who is also the daughter of ex-Sen. Sam Nunn, and state Rep. Scott Holcomb. Republicans, meanwhile, already have a heavy-duty three-way primary between Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Jack Kingston, and others, such as Rep. Tom Price or ex-SoS Karen Handel, may yet join. Even if the GOP nominating battle turns ugly, it'll still be a difficult race for Democrats: Georgia's demographics are moving in the right direction, but they're not there yet. Still, in a 2014 landscape with few Democratic pickup opportunities, Georgia ranks among the best, and a surprise is definitely possible.
• MA-Gov: I think Tom Jensen is right when he says of PPP's new Massachusetts gubernatorial poll: "Sometimes early polling on a race tells us something, but sometimes it doesn't tell us much. This is one of the latter cases." PPP tested 21 different matchups between three Republicans (listed along the top) and seven Democrats (listed vertically). Each Republican's score is listed first in the head-to-heads:
Even though Galvin hasn't expressed interest in the race, I think this matchup is indicative of what Brown could expect if he goes forward with a bid. That's because Galvin sports favorables of only 37-15, meaning half the state still doesn't know who he is, yet he's already making the contest close. Whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee won't lack for money and will be able to amp up his or her name recognition to 100 percent. Of course, Massachusetts Republicans had good success in winning gubernatorial races for a long time until quite recently, so I wouldn't want to make any predictions this far out. But it certainly seems Democrats have more upside than Republicans here.
In the meantime, here's a scorecard of who all the players are, along with their favorables (or in Cowan's case, job approvals):
Ex-Sen. Scott Brown (R): 53-35PPP also threw all seven Democrats into a hypothetical kitchen-sink primary, and that affair is definitely wide open. Capuano, who ran for Senate once before, leads the way, but with just 17 percent. Galvin is the only other person in double figures at 13; the next highest is Grossman at 6, while fully 44 percent say they are undecided or prefer someone else.
2010 nominee Charlie Baker (R): 21-20
Ex-state Sen. Richard Tisei (R): 14-19
Pharmaceutical CEO Joe Avellone (D): 7-12
Ex-Medicare Administrator Don Berwick (D): 6-11
Rep. Mike Capuano (D): 26-20
Sen. Mo Cowan (D): 12-16
Sec'y of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin (D): 37-15
Treasurer Steve Grossman (D): 20-14
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz (D): 14-20
• MI-Gov: I always get a little antsy when party committees take their recruitment efforts public. After all, if your lines of communications with the candidate you're trying to lure into a race are healthy, then why leak internal polls to the beltway press? In fairness to the DGA, this tactic seemed to work (or at least, it didn't hurt) when they shared some data showing Rep. Allyson Schwartz looking strong against Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett; she eventually wound up making the race. And now they're apparently at it again with a new survey designed to make the case that ex-Rep. Mark Schauer can beat Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder—provided to Politico, of course.
Now, we can't say for sure that the DGA itself was behind the leak. They commissioned the poll, but Politico says they received it from "a Democratic source," which could mean anything. And the poll from Garin-Hart-Yang is also not quite as optimistic as what we saw out of the Keystone State, seeing as the leaker declined to include initial ballot numbers—all we've got are some informed ballot tests. However, Snyder continues to sport absolutely brutal job approvals, with only 38 positive and 60 negative, and he edges a generic Democrat by just 40-38. Schauer only served a single term in the House and is (for the moment) little known, and other polls have shown him performing about as well as Generic D does here, so I can understand releasing polling data in this fashion.
Still, though, I'm unclear on the virtues of sharing this data with the world at large. It's pretty well established at this point that Schauer is the top Dem choice to take on Snyder, and as I say, this poll is quite similar to others we've already seen. Well, maybe sometimes a positive press writeup can offer an additional little nudge, so hopefully Snyder will decide soon enough.
• PA-Gov: Ordinarily when credible challengers threaten to primary Republican incumbents, progressives tend to be psyched—and disappointed when those would-be upstarts back off. But in this case, I think we should be glad. After contemplating a run against Gov. Tom Corbett for some time, Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor has decided against the idea, though it was no idle threat. Castor lost the 2004 GOP attorney general primary to Corbett by less than 6 points, so there was every indication he could have given the governor a real run for his money.
Corbett's general election polling, though, is so awful that Democrats have to hope he's the Republican nominee next year, rather than some clean slate alternative, as Castor would have been. Some preliminary polling had showed Corbett looking less than dominant against Castor in a hypothetical primary (PPP had him up 43-23 in March), so it's still certainly possible that someone else could emerge to unseat the incumbent. But with Castor laying down arms, the heaviest artillery has now left the battlefield, and that's good news for Democratic chances at retaking the Pennsylvania governor's mansion.