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House Race Ratings: In case you haven't seen them yet, Daily Kos Elections just published our inaugural House race ratings for the 2012 election cycle. Our complete chart is available at the link, where we've rated 107 races as potentially competitive (so far). While you're at it, you can also check out our Senate and gubernatorial race ratings as well. We'll be keeping all of these lists updated regularly throughout the election cycle, and every time we issue a change, we'll keep you posted in the Daily Digest, so stay tuned!

Senate:

CT-Sen: Another strong get for Dem Rep. Chris Murphy: Connecticut's AFSCME Council 4, which represents some 34,000 workers in the state, just endorsed his bid for Senate.

FL-Sen: Man, the GOP is digging deep for an alternative to Rep. Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy IV, the man who was supposed to be their savior in the first place. Politico reports that former Rep. Dave Weldon—a guy we haven't heard a peep from since he quietly announced his retirement over four years ago—is "seriously considering" a last-minute entry into the Florida GOP Senate race and will supposedly make up his mind in the coming week.

Weldon was an ultra-conservative member of the notorious class of 1994 (is there any other kind?), but he was only 53 when he decided to leave Congress and return to the practice of medicine (he's now 58). Still, he was never a spectacular fundraiser and after first winning office, he quickly became one of those guys who never really faced serious re-election fights, even though his seat (the old FL-15) had long been represented by Democrats until he won it. With the primary just three months away, it would take a lot of doing for him to beat Connie Mack, but the fact that some Republicans even want him to try at this late, late date is remarkable in and of itself.

Speaking of Mack, he was just busted for what actually looks like an egregious violation of franking rules. Franking is the privilege which allows members of Congress to send mailers to their constituents on the government dime—ostensibly to communicate about government activities but often shading over into campaign-ish turf. Usually complaints about franking abuse are kind of ticky-tack, but this one is a solid hit: Mack recently sent almost 60,000 pieces of mail to Florida residents who live outside of his district, which is directly prohibited by House rules. Mack is blaming his mail vendor, which for some reason is actually willing to serve as the fall guy here, seeing as they wrote a check for $18,000 to reimburse the federal government. (I guess they're expecting further work from Mack's Senate campaign.) Mack's chief primary rival, George LeMieux, is already making hay of this, but ultimately, this is just further proof that Connie really is the Jaws IV of Macks.

MA-Sen: A new survey from the MassINC Polling Group pegs the Bay State's Senate matchup at 43 for Democrat Elizabeth Warren and 41 for GOP Sen. Scott Brown. The spread isn't much changed from MassINC's last poll back in February, which had Warren up 46-43. The candidates favorability ratings have wobbled a bit, with Brown sliding from 50-29 to 46-33, but Warren saw both her positives and negatives dip, from 39-29 to 34-25. However, it looks like MassINC slightly changed their question wording, going from asking just "favorable" vs. "unfavorable" to a four-point scale that asks respondents whether their views are "very" or "somewhat" favorable/unfavorable, so the numbers may not be directly comparable.

NJ-Sen (PDF): It's evidently Senate polling day here at Daily Kos Elections—here's another survey (out of five Senate polls overall), this time of the New Jersey contest. Farleigh Dickinson University finds Dem Sen. Bob Menendez up 42-33 over Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, but there's not much to see here: Back in March, it was 43-33 Menendez.

OH-Sen: Two new polls, one from Quinnipiac and one from PPP, both show the Ohio Senate race tightening, which makes sense, given that Republican Josh Mandel recently went on the air with a large buy backing a couple of positive bio spots. In Quinnipiac's polling, Mandel's favorables have gone from 16 to 30 since February. But Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown is also up with negative hits on Mandel (including a new one that just dropped on Thursday), so that also helps explain Mandel's negatives moving up from 12 to 18 over the same timespan.

Anyhow, in the head-to-heads, Brown still leads, 46-40; at the end of March, it was 46-36. PPP, meanwhile, has Brown up 45-37, tightened a bit from 47-36 in January. They, too, see Mandel's name rec increasing. Pollster Tom Jensen also offers a note of caution for Brown supporters, pointing out that there are more undecided Republicans than Democrats (19% to 14%).

And in non-polling news, what's been a regular theme with Josh Mandel has now turned into a running joke. Mandel simply won't answer anyone's questions about anything: On President Obama's American Jobs Act (a $447 billion stimulus bill), he would only say, "I'd have to read about it." Note: Obama first proposed this legislation last September.

TX-Sen: Here's a second poll in as many days from supporters of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that's trying to swathe him in an air of inevitability: The Texas Conservatives Fund's survey (from Perception Insight) has Dewhurst at 57, with Ted Cruz far behind at 16 and Tom Leppert at 12. (The previous poll, which had Dewhurst at 51, was from the Conservative Republicans of Texas—really starting to sound like Life of Brian, I know.)

Dewhurst, as you know has to hit 50% to avoid a runoff, which he'd very much like to do lest all the anti-Dewhurst factions coalesce around Cruz in a second round. But I'm having a hard time believing these numbers, seeing as PPP had Dewhurst ahead just 38-26 (PDF) three weeks ago. What's more, PPP's also seen the gap consistently shrink over time, not grow. Of course, Dewhurst is on the air now and is better-funded than his opponents, but I'd really like to see another survey from a reliable source without any skin in the game.

Gubernatorial:

OH-Gov: In its new Ohio poll, PPP also took an early look at the 2014 gubernatorial race (Ohio voters, 5/3-6, MoE: ±3.3%, no trendlines):

Ted Strickland (D): 47
John Kasich (R-inc): 40
Undecided: 12

Tim Ryan (D): 41
John Kasich (R-inc): 40
Undecided: 19

Richard Cordray (D): 42
John Kasich (R-inc): 42
Undecided: 16

Strickland, of course, is the former governor whom Kasich beat in 2010. Strickland ran a hell of a race, though, and in any other year, I'm convinced he would have won. Though he's now 70, he hasn't ruled out a rematch, and I would LOVE it if he ran again. But if he doesn't, it's interesting to see that Kasich pulls pretty much the exact same vote totals against two much lesser-known potential opponents: Rep. Tim Ryan and former state AG Richard Cordray, who is now chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Elizabeth Warren's brainchild). Obviously I hardly need to mention that 2014 is a long ways off, and a lot can change, yadda yadda, but I'd really like to see Democrats give Kasich a run for his money.

WI-Gov: Rasmussen: Tom Barrett (D): 45, Scott Walker (R-inc): 50

House:

FL-18: Democrat Patrick Murphy is out with a new internal from FrederickPolls showing his race against tea party exemplar Allen West a dead heat, with both men tied at 45 apiece. The memo says that both candidates perform equally well among members of their own party but that Murphy has a 49-34 lead with independents—something he'll obviously need to hang on to (if not improve) if he's to push himself over the 50% mark. The poll also includes West's favorables, which stand at 42-41; Murphy's aren't provided because his name rec is undoubtedly low, but it's actually a positive sign that the race is so tight in spite of that. There're also Obama-Romney head-to-heads, which Romney leads 49-46, showing this survey, if anything, is a bit pessimistic, because Obama won the 18th by three points in 2008.

TX-06: Rep. Joe Barton is touting an internal poll of the GOP primary from Shaw & Company which shows him getting 62% of the vote, while "[t]he candidate with the next highest percentage of support came in at 10%." That presumably refers either to former Addison mayor Joe Chow (who's raised $160K) or security consultant Itamar Gelbman (who loaned his campaign $180K), though neither seems to have a realistic shot at unseating the incumbent.

Other Races:

NY-St. Sen: State Sen. James Alesi, one of four Republican state senators to vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in New York last year, will not run for re-election this fall. Alesi had lost support in some Republican quarters, and the Conservative Party had abandoned him, plus he was also looking at an expected primary challenge from Assemblyman Sean Hanna. It's not all about gay marriage, though: Alesi had also received a lot of negative press over a personal injury lawsuit he filed against a couple of homeowners in his district—after he had trespassed on their property and the owners nevertheless declined to press chargers. (He later withdrew the suit and apologized.) Democrats view this seat as a possible pickup opportunity, and Monroe County Legislature Minority Leader Ted O'Brien is set to announce his candidacy.

Grab Bag:

Gay Marriage: Daily Kos user dreaminonempty has an absolutely must-read diary in which he's aggregated a year's worth of Daily Kos/SEIU polling to perform an extended and deep analysis of our data on same-sex marriage. For those of you wondering what the electoral impact of Barack Obama's decision to come out for gay marriage might be, this post comes as close to an answer as possible—and the final conclusion is "there's no indication that the political effect of [the president]'s announcement favors one side or the other in the November elections." But I insist you read the whole thing, because you won't find a more sophisticated take on this question anywhere else. Here's just one of many important findings: "Black voters, while a little more conservative, are damn close to whites" in their views on gay marriage, badly deflating the notion that Obama risks losing black votes with this move.

NRCC: The NRCC likes to play a lot of games with its program for favored recruits (known as "Young Guns," no matter how old the candidate)—they constantly shift office-seekers between various tiers, generating free media hits with every minor tweak to their list. As a consequence, I've mostly ignored their machinations for some time, but today's an exception, because for the first time this cycle, they've added a group of hopefuls to their highest tier. All of these are pickup opportunities for the GOP except for CA-26, which we regard as a Republican-held open seat due to Elton Gallegly's retirement:

Jesse Kelly (AZ-08), Ricky Gill (CA-09), David Valadao (CA-21), Tony Strickland (CA-26), Jason Plummer (IL-12), Jackie Walorski (IN-02), Andy Barr (KY-06), Richard Tisei (MA-06), Randy Altschuler (NY-01), Matt Doheny (NY-21), Keith Rothfus (PA-12), Mia Love (UT-04)
Ad Watch:

NE-Sen: Is Jon Bruning just providing himself with a bit of last-minute insurance ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary, or is he actually feeling some heat? His latest ad attacks both of his opponents: Don Stenberg over "accounting gimmicks" and Deb Fischer for supporting a "tax increase." A semi-sketchy single-day Fischer poll showed the race potentially up-for-grabs, but another recent independent poll had Bruning securely in first, so it's hard to say what the story is here.

OH-Sen: Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown's second ad, like his first, goes negative, attacking Republican Josh Mandel for skipping 13 straight meetings of the Ohio State Board of Deposit (which he chairs) and instead heading out of town for fundraisers. Mandel's absenteeism has long been the subject of many newspaper headlines, and it's all the more remarkable because he continues to miss meetings rather than put in an hour's worth of face-time to try to end the stories.

AZ-08: Two new ads from Democrats in the Arizona special election, and both use the same tool: Republican Jesse Kelly's own extremist words. The first is from Ron Barber's campaign (his first negative ad), mostly focusing on Kelly's stated desire to "eliminate" Medicare and Social Security. The second is a minute-long spot from the House Majority PAC (supported by a previously-announced $340K buy), which includes those remarks as well as several more outrageous statements on taxation. If you haven't seen these clips of Kelly for yourself yet, I encourage you to do so:

NY-01: I'd have figured 2010 nominee Randy Altschuler would have the GOP nomination well in hand, so I'm a little surprised to see him attacking his primary opponent, George Demos (who also ran last time), in this compare-and-contrast spot. After 15 seconds of positive fluff, Altschuler slams Demos for being a "liberal government lawyer" who only "rents an apartment" in Suffolk County "just to run for Congress." Demos's response was too amusing and biting not to include in full:
Demos pushed back at "Green Party activist" Altschuler's "caste-system condescension," saying, in part, "In the face of cratering support, Liberal Outsourcer Randy Altschuler rushed out a television ad attacking me for being... a renter. Apparently Altschuler thinks only people who own land should be allowed to run for office—an idea that our Founding Fathers rejected over two centuries ago....

"It may shock Randy that beyond the high walls of a gated mansion, tens of thousands of his new neighbors in Suffolk County rent, live in nursing homes, or have moved back in with family members because they lost their jobs due to his outsourcing. In fact, it was by shipping our jobs to foreign countries that Altschuler was able to amass enough rupees to buy his multimillion-dollar Head of the Harbor estate.

Independent Expenditures:

CA-30: Howard Berman's allies at the Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman have re-upped their TV buy on his behalf, putting another $96K into Berman's primary against Dem Rep. Brad Sherman.

KY-04: It's small potatoes compared to what a 21 year-old college Republican can buy you, but a group calling itself the Americans For Growth, Opportunity and Prosperity has put another $26K into a direct mail effort on behalf of Republican Tom Massie, bringing their total investment in this race to $53K.

(James L)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri May 11, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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