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Leading Off:

SC-Sen-B, SC-01: It's a done deal: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has named Rep. Tim Scott to fill the seat of Sen. Jim DeMint, who earlier announced that he'd resign to take the helm of the Heritage Foundation in January. Scott was first elected to Congress in 2010, filling ex-Rep. Henry Brown's open seat, and just handily won re-election to a second term. From the moment of DeMint's announcement, Scott's name made the top of almost every list, so this move comes as little surprise.

And though DeMint never confirmed it, Scott was reportedly his first choice as well, and he'll also become the only African American in the Senate. While Scott hasn't been the iconoclast DeMint has (few could be), he's already put together a reliably conservative profile and should fit right in with the rest of the GOP caucus in upper chamber. For instance, he once said that if Barack Obama were to find a way to pay our nation's creditors without Congress lifting the debt ceiling, it would constitute an "impeachable offense." He's also extremely anti-union, sponsoring legislation to make families ineligible for food stamps if one member went on strike.

Because DeMint was just re-elected in 2010, Scott's appointment will only run through 2014, at which time he'd have to run again—for just the final two years of DeMint's term. Scott wouldn't have a chance to seek a full term until 2016, which means two elections in back-to-back cycles if he plans to stay in the Senate.

Before he even gets that far, though, Scott may have to contend with a Republican primary. Lots of eager up-and-comers who wanted this appointment for themselves may decide that Scott's not entitled to the seat and might try to challenge him. That may or may not be so easy, though, depending on how extensively the establishment rallies around Scott, and whether he can avoid screwing up once he's elevated to a much more prominent role. (At least one snubbed colleague of Scott's, however, has said he won't run in such a primary: Rep. Mick Mulvaney.)

(continue reading below the fold)

Haley's decision will also kick off a special election in Scott's 1st Congressional District, a very conservative seat along the South Carolina coast that voted for Mitt Romney by a 58-40 margin last month. Consequently, most of the action to replace Scott will happen on the GOP side the, and Great Mentioner is roaring into action with a boatload of possible names who might run in the special.

The Fix offers up three state senators: Larry Grooms (an unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial candidate); Tom Davis (who's been mulling a run against Sen. Lindsey Graham); and Paul Thurmond (son of Strom and a 2010 candidate for SC-01 who got pounded by Scott in a runoff). Others include state House Majority Whip Jimmy Merrill; state Reps. Peter McCoy, Chip Limehouse, and Chip Campsen; and former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford.

The Charleston-based Post and Courier largely concurs with this list, adding a couple more: Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey and former Charleston County School Board member Larry Kobrovsky. For Democrats, 2008 nominee Linda Ketner (who lost by only two points) might be our best hope for making this one competitive, but I wouldn't hold out a lot of hope for a pickup.

The timing of the special hinges on when Scott resigns, but if things go as planned, a May election looks likely, with the primary coming in March.


HI-Sen: Sad news: Democrat Dan Inouye, Hawaii's senior senator, has passed away at the age of 88. Inouye was recently hospitalized for what were described as respiratory complications, related to emphysema and lung surgery he underwent in the 1960s; he succumbed on Monday. Inouye represented Hawaii in Congress from the moment it achieved statehood in 1959, first in the House and late in the Senate. He had a long and extraordinary career that included military service during World War II of unthinkable heroism. I encourage you to read the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's detailed obituary, but if you're not familiar with Inouye's wartime deeds—which ultimately earned him the Medal of Honor—then Wikipedia's summary is a must-read:

On April 21, 1945, Inouye was grievously wounded while leading an assault on a heavily-defended ridge near San Terenzo in Tuscany, Italy called Colle Musatello. The ridge served as a strongpoint along the strip of German fortifications known as the Gothic Line, which represented the last and most dogged line of German defensive works in Italy. As he led his platoon in a flanking maneuver, three German machine guns opened fire from covered positions just 40 yards away, pinning his men to the ground. Inouye stood up to attack and was shot in the stomach; ignoring his wound, he proceeded to attack and destroy the first machine gun nest with hand grenades and fire from his Thompson submachine gun. After being informed of the severity of his wound by his platoon sergeant, he refused treatment and rallied his men for an attack on the second machine gun position, which he also successfully destroyed before collapsing from blood loss.

As his squad distracted the third machine gunner, Inouye crawled toward the final bunker, eventually drawing within 10 yards. As he raised himself up and cocked his arm to throw his last grenade into the fighting position, a German inside fired a rifle grenade that struck him on the right elbow, severing most of his arm and leaving his own primed grenade reflexively "clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore." Inouye's horrified soldiers moved to his aid, but he shouted for them to keep back out of fear his severed fist would involuntarily relax and drop the grenade. As the German inside the bunker reloaded his rifle, Inouye pried the live grenade from his useless right hand and transferred it to his left. As the German aimed his rifle to finish him off, Inouye tossed the grenade off-hand into the bunker and destroyed it. He stumbled to his feet and continued forward, silencing the last German resistance with a one-handed burst from his Thompson before being wounded in the leg and tumbling unconscious to the bottom of the ridge. When he awoke to see the concerned men of his platoon hovering over him, his only comment before being carried away was to gruffly order them to return to their positions, since, as he pointed out, "nobody called off the war!"

Our thoughts are with Inouye's family.


NJ-Gov: Looks like GOP Gov. Chris Christie might score a pretty big get: Various reports say that the 20,000-strong Laborers union (which mostly represents construction workers) will back Christie for re-election, at the behest of labor leader Ray Pocino. This is disappointing, as organized labor seems more unified against Christie than it was in 2009—and with good reason. Christie's engaged in some serious anti-union rhetoric, including this notable passage during his RNC keynote address earlier this year:

They believe in pitting unions against teachers, educators against parents, and lobbyists against children.

They believe in teachers' unions.

We believe in teachers.

Indeed, he's even called the New Jersey Education Association  a "political thuggery operation." But it's not just words, it's deeds as well: Christie's also cut union pensions and healthcare benefits, so there's ample reason for labor to unite against him. Hopefully other unions will hold the line.

OH-Gov: While some sketchy recent reports suggested that Rep. Tim Ryan would not, in the end, make a bid for governor in 2014, in a new interview he says he's still weighing his options and will decide "'very early next year.'' Ryan added that he hadn't spoken with ex-Gov. Ted Strickland (whom Ryan calls a mentor) recently; Strickland, like Ryan, is also weighing a run, and if he gets in, he'd likely clear the Democratic field. For his part, Strickland says he'll finalize his plans in January.

TN-Gov: When state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh first started mooting a challenge to GOP Gov. Bill Haslam last week, I opined that I was "not sure how he'd have a path to victory" and called Haslam "incredibly tough to beat." Well, it looks like someone agrees with me: Craig Fitzhugh. In a new interview, Fitzhugh was very candidate about Haslam's strengths and his own reasons for running:

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh says he may become a candidate for governor in 2014, but not because he thinks a Democrat can beat Republican incumbent Gov. Bill Haslam.

"I don't think Gov. Haslam is going to lose any sleep over me," Fitzhugh said in an interview. "Our current governor is a good man with deep pockets and a 70 percent approval rating." [...]

If he runs, Fitzhugh said, "it would be an issues deal" with the idea in mind of having a statewide candidate on the ballot without big negatives to drag down Democrats seeking other offices, such as state legislator.

Well, score one for rare honesty in the political arena. It sounds like Fitzhugh is mindful of the debacle Tennessee Democrats experienced this year, when their Senate candidate turned out to be a right-wing lunatic who was formally disavowed by the party, and wants to at least offer Dems a legitimate option in the 2014 gubernatorial contest. Fitzhugh says he plans to delay a decision for as long as possible—perhaps he's hopeful someone else will volunteer themselves as a sacrificial lamb—adding "the shorter (a campaign) the better." Ordinarily, you want to get into a race as early as possible, but in an unusual situation like this, Fitzhugh's position makes sense.


IL-02: This is unexpected: On Saturday, Cook County Democratic officials were expected to formally endorse a candidate in the Jesse Jackson, Jr. special election, and anyone who was betting was putting down money on state Sen. Donne Trotter. But the meeting wound up producing no endorsement at all, very possibly because of Trotter's recent arrest for attempting to carry a firearm and bullets through airport security. (In classic Chicago fashion, vote totals were not released.) While it's an open question how much an official seal of approval would have mattered in the primary, the establishment's failure to get behind Trotter in this multi-candidate race probably indicates it's a bit more wide open than some insiders imagined it would be.

IL-18, NY-21: The Office of Congressional Ethics has recommended that the House Ethics Committee open investigations into ethical matters concerning two members of congress: Republican Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois and Democratic Rep. Bill Owens of New York. If you're a regular reader of the Daily Kos Elections Digest, then you might recall both of these stories, which we've written about before. In Schock's case, he solicited a $25,000 donation from Eric Cantor to the now-defunct Campaign for Primary Accountability, which was helping another Illinois congressman, Adam Kinzinger, in his (ultimately successful) member-vs.-member battle against Rep. Don Manzullo. That sum was five times the amount lawmakers are allowed to ask for on behalf of super PACs.

As for Owens, he's being looked at for improperly accepting a lobbyist-funded trip to Taiwan—something he immediately reimbursed his sponsor for (to the tune of $22,000) right after ProPublica first published the details of the junket. (Owens' Republican opponent, Matt Doheny, also ran ads on the issue.) The Ethics Committee must decide by Jan. 28 whether it will launch full probes into either of these matters.

Other Races:

NY-St. Sen: This is very unexpected: After a full count of all ballots in the super-close 46th District state Senate race between Republican George Amedore and Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk, it looks like Amedore will be certified as the winner with a 39-vote lead. Earlier in the process, Amedore's attorneys had challenged far more ballots than Tkaczyk's, making her look like the likely victor. But in the end, it seems Amedore may have eked it out. However, it's not over yet: A Tkaczyk spokesman says that there are "still hundreds of outstanding objections that have to be ruled on by the Appellate Court."

If Amedore does hang on, though, then that raises a huge question: What will become of Republican leader Dean Skelos's power-sharing deal with the five renegade Democrats of the so-called IDC? With Amedore, that gives the GOP 31 seats outright; add in turncoat Democrat Simcha Felder (a conservative who is not part of the IDC) and Skelos has 32 senators in his camp—enough for control of the chamber without the IDC. After all that bullshit about bipartisanship that Skelos and the IDC have been peddling, is Skelos prepared to abandon the deal and punk Jeff Klein, the leader of the IDC junta? We'll just have to see.

P.S. On Monday, mainstream Democrats elected state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester as their new leader. She takes over from John Sampson.

Special Elections: The last two special elections of 2012 are coming up on Tuesday. Johnny Longtorso tells you what you need to know:

Kentucky SD-16: This is the seat vacated by Dem Gov. Steve Beshear's nemesis David Williams, located along the Tennessee border. The candidates are Democrat Bill Conn, a teacher, and Republican Sara Beth Gregory, a State Representative who was just elected to her second term.

Virginia HD-89: This is the seat vacated by now-state Sen. Kenny Alexander, a majority-black district in Norfolk. The candidates are Democrat Daun Hester, a former member of the Norfolk City Council, and an independent, James St. John, a Some Dude.

Grab Bag:

Electoral College: Reid Wilson at the National Journal has an extended look at a coordinated GOP scheme to rig the electoral college; even though a prominent attempt died on the vine in Pennsylvania last year, Republicans in Washington are organizing efforts in several blue-leaning states to forge ahead once again. As we've written before, these plans typically revolve around splitting a state's electoral votes by congressional district, which of course is wonderful if you're the GOP and you've drawn the state's congressional map to your liking. For instance, even though Barack Obama won Michigan handily, Republican control over the mapmaking process meant Mitt Romney prevailed in nine of the state's 14 districts.

Along with Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan make the most tempting targets because they're all blue states which (temporarily, we can pray) are completely controlled by Republicans, thanks to the 2010 wipeout. Virginia's also a possibility, but it remains in play for the GOP on the statewide level, so Republicans might continue to prefer winner-take-all there. (After that, you're talking about Ohio, Florida and North Carolina—states the GOP almost certainly doesn't want to carve up.)

But it's far from automatic. BeloitDem points out that Republican margins in the state legislatures in MI, PA and WI are fairly tight and it wouldn't take many defections to derail this scheme. (In Virginia, it would take just one: Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who casts tiebreaking votes in the evenly-divided state Senate. And he's pretty incensed at the establishment these days.)

The reason this very same scheme ran aground in the Keystone State is instructive, too: Republican members of Congress were extremely wary of turning their individual turfs into national battlegrounds every time a presidential election rolled around. GOP leaders in Pennsylvania are therefore pushing an amended plan now, one that would award electoral votes based on the total popular vote share in the state. This method would have given Obama 11 electoral voters and Romney 9 in Pennsylvania, instead of the full 20 being awarded to Obama outright. And of course, this plan would also damage Democratic chances at the White House in the future because similar changes obviously won't be made in large red states like Texas.

This modified Pennsylvania approach worries me the most, since it'd probably be the easiest to pass. Democrats therefore need to keep pressure on wobbly Republican lawmakers in each of these states—and to make as big a stink as possible about how shameful these shenanigans are. I'll bet newspaper editorial boards won't like these hijinks one bit, and I think ordinary voters can be convinced that the GOP is playing political games with their right to vote.

What's more, changing the system will also jeopardize the swing state status of each of these states. Under the new PA plan, no one would bother contesting the state as you'd need to win 56 percent of the total statewide vote just to move the needle from an 11-9 split to 12-8. No one's scored that high in Pennsylvania since the Nixon landslide of `72—not even Obama in 2008—so the state would go from a frequent battleground to an afterthought. To be clear, I don't care for the electoral college one bit, but if appealing to any sense of "swing state pride" helps scuttle these efforts, I'm all for it.

Pres-by-CD: We'll mark four states as completed today (in additional to updates on eight districts previously completed), bringing our count to 325, which puts us 75% of the way there. First, the new states:

New Mexico (statewide)

Pennsylvania (PA-04, PA-08, PA-14, PA-16, PA-18)

New Mexico's 2-1 Dem split seems to be solidifying, as even the "swing" NM-01 went for the President by more than 15 points (and for incoming Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham by substantially more than that). Pennsylvania is yet another Republican gerrymander (that many state Democrats stupidly signed on to), which is starting to show through. The Pittsburgh-based PA-14 gave Obama 68 percent, while the remaining districts all went for Romney. PA-08 gets the distinction of closest district so far, with Romney having eked out a 255-vote edge over Obama here.

Virginia (statewide)

Washington (statewide)

Next, we also confirmed the state-provided CD calculations in Virginia, where the results were marked by the State Board of Elections as "official" despite one precinct in Fairfax County supposedly not having reported yet. Fortunately, the Fairfax County Office of Elections also provides precinct-level data (PDF), allowing us to confirm the correctness of the SBE's data.

Similarly, in Washington, we replicated results substantially similar to those offered by the Secretary of State. The difference is attributable to precincts with low voter counts, for which results are not reported individually so as to protect voter privacy. The SoS obviously has access to that information, which we do not; therefore, we'll go with the SoS's numbers, even though they aren't meaningfully different from those calculated using public information. Both Virginia and Washington's numbers have therefore had their "preliminary" designations removed.

Additionally, we calculated for fun the results from the old incarnation of WA-01, which held a special election to replace Dem Gov.-elect Jay Inslee; the difference in Dem Rep.-elect Suzan DelBene's performance between the special election (in old WA-01) and the general election (in new WA-01) very much reflects the difference in the presidential results as well (Obama +25 in old WA-01 vs. Obama +11 in new WA-01).

Finally, some updates to previously completed districts.

California (CA-01, CA-02, CA-04, CA-05)

Florida (FL-09, FL-10, FL-15, FL-17)

In California, we noted a few days ago that we would update our data once results were certified by the Secretary of State, which happened on Friday. There was a battery of slight changes (did you know write-in votes for Barack Obama in Monterey County are treated the same as regular votes for Obama? well, now you do!), as well as two meaningful ones affecting four districts.

In Placer County, the results we'd used were (unknowingly) not final. The relevant districts been recalculated using final precinct results. This moved the needle slightly in CA-01 and CA-04, but both remain districts that went solidly for Romney. In Sonoma County, the results we'd erroneously used were vote-by-mail (VBM) only. Even though VBMs represent a solid majority of votes cast in California now, the inclusion of election day votes in the (staunchly liberal) county were enough to nudge CA-02 and CA-05 further into Democratic territory. Our totals now match those provided by the SoS, and when the Supplemental Statement of the Vote is released next April (which includes CD-level results tallied by the state itself), we expect our results will match the official ones exactly.

In Florida, we received updates from Polk County that allocated early votes and regular absentees (as distinguished from overseas/UOCAVA absentees) to their respective precincts, meaning we no longer have to estimate the distribution of more than 120,000 votes. While our early vote allocation formulas are decent, they're far from perfect; they resulted in us misallocating about 9,000 votes out of 120,000. Therefore, we're making the following adjustments:

District Obama Romney Total Obama% Romney%
FL-09 +1,420 +1,771 +3,247 -0.22% +0.21%
FL-10 +597 +281 +901 +0.06% -0.06%
FL-15 -1,602 -2,399 -4,083 +0.08% -0.07%
FL-17 -415 +347 -65 -0.13% +0.13%

There are still about 119,000 unallocated early/absentee votes from Seminole County; should we get better information, we'll update that as well (potentially affecting FL-05 and FL-07). (jeffmd)

Senate: If you think that Barack Obama has been unusually willing to go the Senate well to fish out cabinet members, you'd be absolutely right... especially by historical standards. Prior to Obama (who may wind up doing it for the third time if he names John Kerry as Secretary of State), the last time a president tapped a sitting senator was when Bill Clinton named Texas's Lloyd Bentsen to head up the Treasury Dept.—which promptly led to the seat switching hands when GOPer Kay Bailey Hutchison won the ensuing special election. Before that, you have to go back to Ed Muskie of Maine getting named SoS by Jimmy Carter, and before that, you have to go all the way back to FDR. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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