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Leading Off:

IA-Sen: The numbers look good for Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in Iowa's open-seat Senate race next year, according to PPP's new poll, though both sides have a ways to go in terms of upping their name recognition. Here's how Braley performs against the Republican field:

• 43-34 vs. former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker

• 45-33 vs. state Sen. Joni Ernst

• 44-32 vs. former energy company CEO Mark Jacobs

• 43-31 vs. radio host Sam Clovis

• 45-32 vs. former Chuck Grassley chief-of-staff David Young

We have no trendlines to look at because the last time PPP polled this race, back in February, they tested all the plausible top-tier recruits the GOP hoped they might land. Of course, we all know how that turned out, so this is Braley's first time getting paired with the B Team. Braley's favorables have actually moved up a bit, from 29-24 to 34-24, but that means he still has a lot of people to introduce himself to. That goes doubly so for the Republicans, the best-known of whom is Whitaker, with a favorability rating of just 9-15.

As Tom Jensen notes, a lot of Republican voters are still undecided simply because their candidates are so anonymous, and most of those folks will come home in the end. I'd also add that the sample might be a touch bluer than what we'll see come next November. But in the meantime, all the GOP hopefuls (whose fundraising has been unimpressive so far) have to fight it out with one another in a primary, and perhaps a convention as well, if no candidate gets 35 percent.

Indeed, that possibility grew on Wednesday with Ernst's announcement that she has filed paperwork for a bid and plans to formally launch her campaign next week. Meanwhile, Braley has another year to build up his profile and raise tons of money, an enviable position to be in, especially when you're ahead in the polls.

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2Q Fundraising:

CA-17: Rep. Mike Honda (D): $345K raised; Ro Khanna (D): $1 mil raised, $1.7 mil cash-on-hand (that's now the second time Khanna's raised a million bucks in a quarter; he did so last cycle as well, when it looked like he might run against Pete Stark)

CA-31: Pete Aguilar (D): $300K raised, $290K cash-on-hand

IA-01: Monica Vernon (D): $104K raised (in three weeks)

NC-Sen: Thom Tillis (R): $300K raised, $250K cash-on-hand (also at the link is news that NRSC staff recently visited North Carolina to look for other recruits; presumably they aren't in love with Tillis)

TN-04: Jim Tracy (R): $303K raised, $656K cash-on-hand (Tracy is challenging GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais)

Senate:

AK-Sen: Never gonna happen, but we can dream.

KY-Sen: Despite the fact that she didn't tip him off to her plans in advance, Dem Gov. Steve Beshear says: "I'm going to support Alison Lundergan Grimes for the U.S. Senate in every way that I can and whatever they want me to do, I'm going to be there to do." As Nick Storm explains, there's some long history (not all of it positive) between Beshear and Jerry Lundergan, Grimes's dad and a former state party chair, so it's not surprising that Beshear's not in her inner circle. But as long as everyone is pulling in the same direction here, none of that past matters.

SD-Sen: A reader wrote in objecting to my characterization in the previous Digest that "there's been no indication that outside groups have any interest in trying to thwart" ex-Gov. Mike Rounds's establishment-backed bid for the Republican nomination. Conservatives have, of course, made their unhappiness with Rounds's "moderate" record and their preference for an alternative candidate quite clear, but sending out press releases and offering quotes to reporters is easy.

It would be better to say that we haven't seen much serious interest emerge in a real "stop Rounds" effort. That's exemplified by this remark from a Club for Growth spokesperson last month, who said: "We are watching South Dakota's Senate race to see if a pro-growth candidate emerges." Contrast that with their proactive efforts to unseat GOP Rep. Mike Simpson in ID-02 (see bullet below), where they actually held a contest to recruit a candidate, and have already issued an early endorsement.

Of course, things can change. State Sen. Larry Rhoden, who just entered the primary this week and inspired my original comment, could indeed wind up lighting a fire under the likes of the Club and the Senate Conservatives Fund. But the lackadaisical approach these outside groups have demonstrated in South Dakota to date simply hasn't impressed me. Conservative purists are always complaining about establishment candidates, but for every Dick Lugar they derail, there are many more Mark Kirks, Heather Wilsons, and Rick Bergs who prevail in spite of their wishes.

As I say, I'm not writing off the possibility that a concerted effort could stop Rounds. But if the Club for Growth and its allies are taking a wait-and-see approach, that suggests to me that they aren't making an especially aggressive attempt to prevent Rounds from winning the GOP nod—at least, for now.

Gubernatorial:

IA-Gov: PPP's new Iowa poll also included some numbers on the gubernatorial race, where GOP Gov. Terry Branstad looks somewhat less dominant for re-election than I might have imagined, though he's still in the driver's seat. Most notably, Branstad's approvals have dropped a bunch since last November, down to 45-46 all the way from 48-36. He still leads all Democratic comers, though:

• 47-42 vs. ex-Gov. Chet Culver

• 47-35 vs. state Sen. Jack Hatch

• 47-33 vs. state Rep. Tyler Olson

• 50-36 vs. state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal

I wouldn't get too excited about that 5-point margin over Culver, who remains unpopular with favorables of just 34-46 and probably has a pretty low ceiling. That string of 47s for Branstad, though, is a bit tempting, assuming this poll isn't overly optimistic for Democrats. If he were to continue on a downward path in terms of job approvals, it's possible Branstad could make this race competitive all by himself. But Democrats don't have any A-list candidates, so with the way things are now, it would be a very hard climb. Still, we'll see what Branstad does.

And in the unlikely event he decides not to seek another term, a race against Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would start off as tossup. Against this same foursome, she takes anywhere from 36-38 percent, with Culver again topping out at 42 (there's that ceiling again), while Olson is the low man once more at 32. But even though he hasn't formally declared he'll run for re-election, Branstad's been putting together a campaign team and raising money, so odds very much are that he'll be the GOP nominee next year.

MA-Gov: Here's a new potential name in the Democratic gubernatorial campaign mix: Juliette Kayyem, whose resume includes a variety of jobs, chiefly former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, Boston Globe columnist, and Harvard lecturer. She's also a possible choice of EMILY's List, though Kayyem isn't commenting on the race publicly one way or the other. Politico's Alexander Burns also adds that, according to his sources, Kayyem is unlikely to enter the race if state AG Martha Coakley, who is still weighing her options, gets in herself.

NJ-Gov: Bleh.

VA-Gov: Wow. Things only seem to be getting way, way worse for GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell with regard to the whole Star Scientific scandal. Now the Washington Post reports that Star Scientific's CEO, Jonnie Williams, gave $70,000 to a corporation owned by McDonnell, plus another $50,000 directly to McDonnell's wife. Neither transaction was previously disclosed, though there are loopholes in state law that McDonnell is trying to hide behind. It's a little harder to convince the public that technicalities are awesome, but I guess McDonnell has to be more worried about the various federal and state investigations into his acceptance of Williams' largesse than he does about opinion polls.

House:

CA-31: Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar just secured the endorsement of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, his most prominent establishment backer to date. Feinstein also endorsed Aguilar last cycle, though, and seeing as the DCCC has taken the unusual step of supporting him in the primary, you have to expect other big Dem names to get behind him as well. But I don't think ordinary folks get motivated a whole lot by prominent endorsers, so the real question will be whether the establishment can actually move any votes on Aguilar's behalf, or at least help him raise real money.

ID-02: It looks like the Club for Growth is finally ready to kick off head-hunting season again. Ever on the search for apostates they can purge from the Republican Party, the Club has decided that its first target of the 2014 cycle will be Rep. Mike Simpson, who is plenty conservative but only has a 58 percent lifetime rating on the group's scorecard. In order to oust him, the Club ran a recruiting contest and has now endorsed local attorney Bryan Smith, who said he raised $147,000 in June alone, a strong start that will only improve if his new backers steer donors his way.

Simpson, though, pulled in $300,000 for the quarter, and he's fended off primary challenges two cycles in a row now. However, Smith is already better-funded than Simpson's past opponents were, and the Club could spend heavily on independent expenditures on Smith's behalf, as it did in 2006 for the ill-fated Bill Sali in Idaho's 1st District. Unfortunately, the Club's meddling here won't yield an opportunity for Democrats, given Sali's one-in-a-million levels of ineptitude and Idaho's extreme redness. But if these hyper-purists want to drive the GOP even further to the right and force Republicans to waste money propping up an otherwise safe incumbent, well, that's their prerogative.

MA-05: Here's an interesting look at the field in the expected special election to replace Senator-elect Ed Markey, mostly focused on state Sen. Will Brownsberger, who holds some decidedly unorthodox views that aren't going to be assets in a Democratic primary. In particular, he actually supports the Citizens United ruling and doesn't think the Keystone XL oil pipeline should be blocked, positions that aren't especially easy to explain on the campaign trail, and which his opponents have staked out opposition to in varying degrees. While everyone else says they oppose CU, it's the varied responses on Keystone (which has labor support) that offer some insight into the different approaches each candidate plans to take.

OH-10: Democrats have landed a candidate to take on GOP Rep. Mike Turner, advertising company owner Russ Gottesman. Judging by 2012 presidential performance, the 10th is the bluest congressional district held by a Republican in Ohio, seeing as Mitt Romney carried it by just a slim 50-48 margin.

On paper, therefore, this would look like a better pickup target than some of the other Ohio seats that Democrats have looked at recently, though an underfunded challenge by Sharen Neuhardt last cycle fell far short (Turner won, 60-37). Gottesman, a first-time candidate, would need to seriously improve on that performance to have a shot, and it's not clear how much of a profile he brings to the race. However, DCCC communications director Jesse Ferguson took note of Gottesman's entry on Twitter, so it's possible DC Dems view him as a recruit with real chops.

VA-10: Kinda pathetic. Former Democrat, former Alabamian, and former Rep. Artur Davis, has made it pretty clear that he'd like to return to Congress as a Republican if Frank Wolf retires. To that end, he's leaked some internal polling to the Daily Caller designed to make it seem as though the field to replace Wolf would be wide open in the event Wolf calls it quits. But despite attempts to spin the results as favorable to Artur, you know something's hinky when the writeup doesn't even include his own vote share in a hypothetical kitchen-sink primary. State Sens. Jill Holtzman Vogel and Dick Black supposedly lead with 17 apiece, but the story also fails to mention the pollster's name, so meh.

Other Races:

CO Recall: El Paso County Republicans have selected former Colorado Springs City Councilman Bernie Herpin as their choice to take on state Senate Majority Leader John Morse in the recall election they've been pushing, spurning erotic fiction author Jaxine Bubis. (Both Bubis and Herpin agreed to abide by the results of a straw poll conducted by local GOP leaders.) Morse, meanwhile, has filed a request for an injunction halting the recall with a local court, once again arguing that the language on the petitions circulated against him was legally insufficient. If he's not successful, Gov. John Hickenlooper will soon have to schedule a date for the recall.

NYC Comptroller: On behalf of the Wall Street Journal and News 4 New York, Marist quickly jumped into the field right after Eliot Spitzer announced his entry into the New York City comptroller's race, offering the first poll numbers for the Democratic primary. They find Spitzer leading Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer 42-33, though Spitzer's net favorability rating is considerably lower. He stands at 46-35 (an improvement, to be sure, from years past), while Stringer has much more room to grow, at 40-17. It'll be interesting to see what other polls find, though, before concluding too much about where things stand.

Grab Bag:

Demographics: We're used to thinking that, as life expectancies lengthen, America in general is getting older, and Census data generally bears that out, but Governing magazine puts the spotlight on five places where the data shows that the population is, on average, getting younger. That can be because of international immigration (Honolulu), changes in military deployment (Okaloosa Co., in Florida's panhandle), or young people moving in for jobs in a booming economy (Washington DC, North Dakota, or Midland/Odessa, TX). (David Jarman)

FEC: With the Supreme Court's recent ruling that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is illegal, the FEC is likely to start allowing married same-sex couples with only one income to contribute double to candidates, in the same way that opposite-sex couples can. Even more significantly, candidates married to wealthy spouses of the same sex would also be able to self-fund via their partner's bank account. Nathan Gonzales highlights a key example of this in New York's 19th Congressional District, where Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes (worth $700 million) would be free to support his husband, Sean Eldridge, as much as he likes in his race against GOP Rep. Chris Gibson.

But as Gonzales also points out, these expected new rules won't apply nationwide. That's because the FEC will almost certainly defer to each state's definition of marriage, meaning that in the 37 states where same-sex marriage is not permitted, members of same-sex couples will still be treated as individuals. It's yet another example of the unjust, two-tier system that remains in this country, even as great progress continues to be made on the marriage equality front.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Jul 11, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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