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Leading Off:

GA-Sen: Right-wing outlet Conservative Intelligence Briefing got newbie conservative pollsters Harper Polling to take a glance (PDF) at the newly open Senate seat in the Peach State. The results, if they tell us anything, aren't bad for the Democrats, especially given the source.

Really, the results don't tell us a hell of a lot. No one gets out of the teens in the GOP primary (far-right Rep. Paul Broun leads with 19 percent), and Max Cleland (who has given no indication of interest) was the top choice on the Democratic side. But there is one stat there that is of interest: In a generic Congressional trial heat, the GOP lead was only 44-40. This is a possible indication that the Democrats could play in the state, when the field gets a little more clear. The candidate trial heats, as you can see at the link, are useless, with undecided claiming a majority of the vote in every race except for the ones involving the well-known Cleland.

Later in the day on Tuesday, another (more useful) Georgia Senate poll appeared, and it comes from a reliable source: PPP. They also tested Max Cleland, and found that if (and it is a huge "if") he ran, he'd have a preliminary lead over the GOP field. As Harper found, PPP also found the Republican field to be almost absurdly undefined. Their leader was not Paul Broun, but rather a tie between Rep. Jack Kingston and former Sec. of State Karen Handel, both of whom polled at a mighty 15 percent.

But even without Cleland, Dems could have a shot. Come below the fold to see how Team Blue fares with other options.

[Rep.] John Barrow trails by an average of only 4/10ths of a point against the Republicans we tested—leading Gingrey and Handel by 1, tying Broun, trailing Price by 1, and trailing Kingston by 3. [State Sen. Jason] Carter trails the quintet of Republicans we tested by an average of 3.8 points—he's down 2 to Broun and Gingrey, 4 to Handel, 5 to Price, and 6 to Kingston.
Still, it's worth noting that Barrow tops out at 43 percent in the head-to-heads, though he's unknown to over half the state. Ultimately, if there is any clear lesson from both of these polls (conducted by very disparate pollsters), it is that the Senate race in Georgia is both (a) undefined and (b) wide open. (Steve Singiser & David Nir)

Senate:

AR-Sen, -02, -04, -LG: When we last left Arkansas Lt. Governor Mark Darr (R), he was demurring from a gubernatorial bid. As it happens, Darr was muscled out by a bid from former GOP Rep. Asa Hutchinson, which sucked any conceivable oxygen out of a promotion for Darr. Alas, Darr might be about to suffer the same fate yet again. He has announced interest in a bid for the U.S. Senate, a point he reiterated on Monday in an interview with local media outlet The City Wire.

But veteran Arkansas columnist John Brummett opined last week that 4th District freshman Rep. Tom Cotton is the establishment's preferred choice for the U.S. Senate. But Darr might have a contingency in place for that, as well. Darr says that his commute from Springdale has become a bit much (seriously!), and that he will be moving soon. To Cotton's district (or that of another potential Senate aspirant, Tim Griffin)? Perhaps... or, he says, he might just run for re-election. Darr is clearly ambitious, but he seems to be finding out that there is not much clamor for him to climb the ladder. (Steve Singiser)

KY-Sen: It's a little thin, but The Hill suggests that businessman Matt Bevin may be weighing a challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell in the GOP primary. What makes this a little more interesting than your usual story about a tea partying Some Dude is that Bevin is described in the article as having "personal wealth"—but how much, exactly, is definitely a mystery.

Bevin owns a bell-making company in Connecticut (Wikipedia says it's the last bells-only company in the U.S.!) which suffered a devastating fire last year, but it only had 19 employees at its peak. The Hartford Courant says the bell business is "not a full-time job" for Bevin and adds that he "owns firms in decking materials, chocolate, educational software and medical devices, among others." So either he's a guy with a whole host of successful businesses (and perhaps a lot of money as a result), or he's a dabbler. First, though, we'll have to see if he even gets in the race.

MA-Sen: On behalf of the League of Conservation Voters, which has endorsed Ed Markey, PPP has conducted a new poll of the Massachusetts Democratic Senate primary. They find Markey leading fellow Rep. Stephen Lynch 43-28, which actually represents a considerable drop from a few weeks ago, when PPP surveyed the race independently and showed Markey up 52-19. Lynch hadn't formally launched his campaign at that point, though, so the media attention he's earned since then might account for part of this tightening.

But the underlying mechanics of the race still favor Markey. He has a 58-18 favorability rating with primary voters while Lynch is at just 36-29. And if the race does turn negative, PPP says that 54 percent of respondents would be "much less likely" to vote for someone who was "anti-choice on the issue of abortion." The question doesn't mention Lynch by name, but of course that's who they're asking about. There's a reason the Lynch is so unusual in today's Democratic Party, and that's because the kind of socially conservative but pro-labor tradition he comes from has all but disappeared as a potent political force. And his long record on issues like this leaves Markey with a number of options for keeping his opponent down if Lynch starts to show signs of a surge.

Meanwhile, the labor endorsements haven't been pouring in for Lynch at the rate I'd have expected, but here's a new one: New England Regional Council of Carpenters has given Lynch their backing over Markey. Given that Lynch himself was an ironworker, it's unsurprising that the building trades want to support him. But as one labor official explains, the overall union picture is not so simple:

The choice is a difficult one for many unions. Steven Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, said recently that Lynch, as a former union president, has a lot of support on the executive board. Markey, he said, "has pretty much a 100 percent lifetime record with labor." Tolman called both candidates "very close friends to labor.
That's why two big teachers unions just got behind Markey last week. How other unions may divide up could be quite unpredictable, particularly if Markey remains the overall frontrunner, as PPP's new poll indicates.

MN-Sen: I just pray that John Kline doesn't jerk us around like his fellow Republican congressman from Minnesota, Erik Paulsen, who has told numerous shifting stories about his plans for higher office. Kline, at least, is offering a rough timetable, saying he'll decide whether to challenge Sen. Al Franken "sometime in the summer."

Gubernatorial:

FL-Gov: At this early point in the cycle, only two Florida Democrats have enough name recognition to really register in the polls against Gov. Rick Scott: Charlie Crist, who was once governor himself, and Alex Sink, who of course ran against Scott in 2010. Sink, though, sounds very unlikely to make another go at it, particularly because her husband Bill McBride shockingly died of a heart attack in December at just 67. Says Sink:

"Without a husband, without the person that I relied on the most to shore me up and give me good advice. That's changed. That's changed everything," Sink said. "Right this minute, if you're asking me, it's off the table. I'm not prepared to say, 'No I'm not,' but I'm much further away from a run today than I was three months ago."
It's hard not to feel for her. However, I don't understand why she'd also feel the need to poor-mouth Crist. Indeed, Sink went as far as saying that a Crist run would "be a disaster" thanks to his switch from the GOP to the Democratic Party. I really don't see why that kind of talk is necessary. If Crist does wind up as the Democratic nominee, Sink's words could be used against him in attack ads. Surely she doesn't want that, right?

MA-Gov: Heh. So despite hitching on as an "analyst" for FOX News, ex-Sen. Scott Brown says he's still thinking about a run for governor next year. Usually in a blue state like Massachusetts, a gig on FOX is not the best way to burnish your bipartisan credentials, but then again, Brown's trying to blame his bizarre late-night Twitter meltdown last month on "pocket tweeting," which is manifestly bullshit. Bqhatevwr, dude.

ME-Gov: Democrat Karen Mills is soon planning to head home to Maine after a four-year stint in President Obama's cabinet as director of the Small Business Administration, leading some to ask if she might run for governor. Mills isn't ruling out such a bid, saying only that she's focused on a smooth transition to her successor at the SBA. But she could potentially be an intriguing candidate, seeing as no one notable has really stepped up for Team Blue yet.

NE-Gov: The wide-open GOP gubernatorial primary just saw its third candidate declare on Monday—but he's actually the only guy running. As expected, state Sen. Charlie Janssen formally announced his bid for the open governor's seat, in the wake of top contenders Mike Flood and Rick Sheehy both dropping out. He almost surely won't be the last to do so, though. Another state senator, Beau McCoy, just indicated his potential interest in the race as well, and several others are considering.

Here's one guy who isn't, though: After rethinking his earlier decision not to run in the GOP gubernatorial primary after frontrunner Rick Sheehy dropped out, University of Nebraska Regent Tim Clare is saying that he will... not run after all.

NV-Gov: As David Jarman said to me upon learning the news, "I fell down on the floor weeping and rending my garments when I heard, but no rerun from Rory." That would be Rory Reid, the 49-year-old son of Sen. Harry Reid, who lost by double digits to Republican Brian Sandoval in what was a pretty brutal open-seat governor's race in 2010. Reid had previously served on the Clark County Commission, but now he says he is well and truly done with politics. Time to call my tailor.

OH-Gov: Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, one of the top potential Democratic contenders for governor next year, says he may put off his decision—originally expected by the end of March—until April. State Democrats are holding a big dinner in Columbus on March 15, but Fitz says he doesn't think the gubernatorial picture "is going to be clarified by then."

PA-Gov: Thomas Fitzgerald at the Philadelphia Inquirer managed to scare up some additional details about that mysterious DGA poll which Rep. Allyson Schwartz reportedly found so encouraging last week. Fitzgerald reports that the survey was taken in mid-January by Benenson Strategy Group and that it found Schwartz leading GOP Gov. Tom Corbett 50-42, an impressive place to start a campaign.

One other detail mentioned in the article is that Schwartz would apparently be able to transfer her federal campaign warchest over to a state account, which would put her in an excellent position right out the gate. That's because she has over $3.1 million saved up, thanks to her strong fundraising and lack of competitive re-election campaigns. That might be a knock against her—she hasn't really run a tough race since she first won the primary for her 13th District House seat in 2004. But Schwartz isn't one of those members of Congress who won a safe district and then grew immediately lazy. She's a hard worker (as evidenced by her considerable fundraising abilities) and will go into this race eyes wide open, assuming she gets in.

House:

GA-12: Here is a tough one to classify. Getting a well-connected opponent this early in the cycle, ordinarily, should be seen as a very problematic thing for a Democratic incumbent. But when you squished the aforementioned well-connected opponent by a 2-to-1 margin just five years ago?

John Stone, a veteran Hill staffer who has served most recently as the chief of staff for Texas Republican Rep. John Carter, confirmed late last week that he would be taking a second swing at veteran Democratic Rep. John Barrow. Barrow was seen as embattled in 2012, given a district that was more red than the one to which he was originally elected. However, Barrow wound up winning by a pretty solid margin (54-46) over Lee Anderson.

Stone took just over a third of the vote in 2008 but thinks this time will be different. After all, that was a 54-45 Obama district (it's now 55-44 Romney, thanks to redistricting), and Stone got outspent 8-to-1. The NRCC has already said that Barrow is one of their top priorities. Of course, the promise of NRCC attention might also mean that GOP prospects will crawl out of the woodwork, meaning that Stone may not have the nomination to himself. (Steve Singiser)

IL-02: Another congressional endorsement for Robin Kelly in the Democratic primary: This time it's from Rep. Mike Quigley, who himself won a special election in the Chicago area in 2009 to succeed Rahm Emanuel. That makes it four Illinois congresscritters for Kelly versus none for her chief remaining rival, Debbie Halvorson. And that's somewhat remarkable given that Halvorson actually served a term in the House with all these people and yet not a one is interested in helping her.

The SEIU is also getting aboard the Kelly train. Last week, the powerful union released a radio ad attacking Halvorson, and now, following Toi Hutchinson's unexpected departure from the race, they are formally giving their support to Kelly.

MA-05: A third Democratic state legislator says she plans to run for Congress if Ed Markey is successful in his Senate bid: state Sen. Katherine Clark. State Rep. Carl Sciortino and state Sen. William Brownsberger have already begun moving forward, with Sciortino taking the most active steps so far.

MO-08: The good news: Democrats managed to land a sitting state representative, Steve Hodges, to run in the special election to replace ex-Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. The bad news is that Missouri's 8th Congressional District is still exceptionally red: Romney won here, 66-32, and even Todd Akin carried the seat as he was getting drubbed statewide. So even though Hodges is quite conservative himself, party label is going to matter more, and it would take something extraordinarily unusual for him to beat fellow state Rep. Jason Smith, the GOP nominee, when the two meet in the June 4 special election.

NH-01: Well, silly season has officially begun. I'm talking about the tiny TV ad buys that campaign committees like the DCCC and NRCC love to make in the off year—Rothenberg's Nathan Gonzales memorably called them "video press releases"—in order to take little swipes at their favorite targets and earn some very cheap media hits. First up is the NRCC, which is spending a mere $20,000 to air a pretty weaksauce ad attacking Dem Rep. Carol Shea-Porter over congressional pay. (She votes against the silly "no budget, no pay" legislation Republicans tried to attached to the recent debt ceiling hike.) That can't honestly be the best the GOP has to offer, can it?

NY-11: That was quick: Just a few weeks after first floating the possibility of a run against sophomore GOP Rep. Mike Grimm, NYC City Councilman Domenic Recchia has formally declared that he's in. One big obstacle for Recchia is geography, which he addressed at length in the linked article—notably, an "exclusive" given to the State Island Advance. Recchia is from Brooklyn, which makes up only about a third of the district, the bulk of which covers the entirety of Staten Island. The island has long had a bit of a chip on its shoulder: It's geographically the most distant borough in the city, nestled right up against New Jersey, and its politics have always been the most Republican (though that may be changing compared to certain parts of Queens and Brooklyn).

Staten Islanders have even attempted to secede from the city in the past, so it's not surprising to see Recchia play up his connections to the borough. But looming over all this is reclusive ex-Rep. Mike McMahon, who descended from his distant perch not long ago to finally say he's thinking about a comeback. (He basically snubbed anyone who dared to ask him that question last cycle.) McMahon is from Staten Island and would have a considerable advantage in a Democratic primary just thanks to name recognition, even if he has pissed quite a few people off.

But Recchia has something McMahon doesn't: $660,000 in his city campaign account. Recchia can't transfer that money to a federal account directly, but he can refund that cash to his donors and ask them to give again to his federal campaign. That would give him a nice head start against McMahon, who in any event is still doing his rendition of Hamlet meets Emily Dickinson.

SC-01: Tuesday marked T-minus one month and counting until the primary elections in the special election in South Carolina's 1st district, where a pair of Democrats and a crapload of Republicans are vying to replace former Rep. Tim Scott, who ascended to the U.S. Senate last month.

As one might expect with the clock ticking, there has been a flurry of activity, particularly on the GOP side, where more than a dozen candidates are vying for what will almost certainly be a pair of spots in a mid-April runoff. To that end, two candidates hit the airwaves in the past week to take their case to voters. Former state Sen. John Kuhn opted for some traditional anti-spending boilerplate (complete with a pledge!), while former Governor and trail guide Mark Sanford also hit spending, but also offered a tacit acknowledgement of the circumstances which drove him from the governor's mansion.

Meanwhile, Teddy Turner (who was already on the air) is continuing to show that he is just enough of a jerk to fit right in with many of his GOP brethren on the Hill. It is one thing to acknowledge that you have differing political beliefs from your parents. But Turner seems intent on overcompensating for that by being somewhat of a prick about it, introducing himself at a recent GOP conclave by telling the crowd his name, and then saying "You can't pick your parents."

Amazingly, Turner also claims that his relationship with his famous (and wealthy) father is very warm, and that his dad sent him a note after an appearance on FOX News (where he again trashed his parents) to say that he thought the younger Turner "did a great job," and hoped for a victory in the special election. That's very charitable of the elder Turner. From where I sit, it seems to me that Turner, like many Republicans, loves him the Ten Commandments, as long as he doesn't have to live by them. After all, I vaguely remember something about honoring fathers and mothers in there. (Steve Singiser)

Other Races:

IN-??: We can only hope, right?

Now 61, Mourdock declined to rule out another run for political office, noting dryly that he probably would have done just that a few weeks ago. But he has recovered, mentally and physically.
Richard Mourdock is still state treasurer, believe it or not, and will be through 2014. He can't run again, though, due to term limits. However, the position of state auditor will be open then, so perhaps there is a future for Howlin' Mad Mourdock after all!

Grab Bag:

Polltopia: This sounds like a definite upgrade: Just a few weeks after ditching their longtime polling partner Gallup, USA Today is forging a new relationship with the Pew Research Center "to survey public opinion on the biggest issues facing the nation." USA Today is actually the second-largest newspaper by circulation in the U.S., and Pew is a respected pollster, so I'm all for better polling getting greater exposure.

Pres-by-CD: We're opening the Pandora's box of election results that is New Jersey, where administration of the 2012 general election was substantially complicated by Superstorm Sandy. Accordingly, we've received results from many counties that are inconsistent with the state's certified totals, with the mismatch going in both directions. That is, of course, when we've gotten results at all. (Looking at you, Essex, Monmouth, and Warren counties....)

With what we do have though, we can offer results in five districts (three provisionally). New Jersey was one of the few states that swung towards Obama overall; these results are borne out here, as all five of these districts gave the President a higher share of the vote in 2012 than 2008.

Starting in South Jersey (we'll go in Turnpike order), we have NJ-02 (Exits 1 and 2), NJ-01 (Exit 3), and NJ-03 (Exits 4-7). Keeping in mind that the map is a functional Republican gerrymander, NJ-01, at 65.1 percent Obama, is an unremarkable Dem vote sink for Rob Andrews. Meanwhile, in NJ-02 and NJ-03, GOP incumbents Frank LoBiondo and Jon Runyan, as we'd predicted last week, join the club of Republicans who represent districts that voted for Obama. (This club, currently with 16 members, will likely expand to add Peter King; Scott Garrett conclusively will not be able to join.)

LoBiondo's district, at 53.5 percent Obama, actually has Obama's third-best Republican-held seat (after the California duo of Gary Miller's CA-31 and David Valadao's CA-21). LoBiondo seems fairly well entrenched, though: He represented a similarly blue seat before redistricting as well. Runyan's seat falls in four slots later at 51.8 percent Obama, with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's FL-27, Chris Gibson's NY-19, and Mike Coffman's CO-06 coming between him and LoBiondo.

Continuing north (and skipping NJ-04 where we're waiting on Monmouth County), our next district is NJ-12 (exits 8 and 9). Incumbent Dem Rush Holt has expressed interest in running to replace retiring Sen. Frank Lautenberg; should he do so, Dems will have no problem holding this 66.5 percent Obama district. Lastly (after skipping a few more districts where we're waiting on data), we reach NJ-09 (exits 15X, 16/18E, and 16/18W), another staunchly Democratic district (68.3 percent Obama).

In addition to New Jersey, we also have a series of updates to previously calculated districts.

First, in Colorado, we received updated results from Douglas County. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Secretary of Commonwealth, whom I'd previously criticized for a lack of transparency, has released not only statewide results by town, but also precinct! In terms of quality of data, Massachusetts just catapulted itself from the very bottom to the top tier. (I still hate the Patriots, though!)

None of the changes that we're making are particularly substantial, but they do allow us to remove the provisional designation from the Massachusetts districts:

District Obama Romney Total Obama% Romney%
CO-04 +67 +147 +218 -0.01% +0.01%
CO-06 +36 +46 +85 -0.00% +0.00%
MA-01 +1,459 +1,190 +2,804 -0.10% +0.07%
MA-02 +2,838 +1,176 +4,085 +0.13% -0.13%
MA-03 +1,221 +606 +1,856 +0.05% -0.05%
MA-04 +1,415 +709 +2,800 -0.05% -0.12%
MA-05 +2,493 +855 +3,406 +0.08% -0.08%
MA-06 +1,395 +614 +2,208 +0.05% -0.09%
MA-07 +479 +35 +535 +0.01% -0.02%
MA-08 +893 +400 +1,319 +0.04% -0.04%
MA-09 +2,633 +1,368 +4,064 +0.10% -0.10%

Lastly, in Texas, the TLC (the Texas Legislative Council—not the formerly popular girl group nor the formerly educational television channel) has released a statewide file of votes by VTD (voting tabulation district). VTDs differ slightly from election precincts, and accordingly, these data differ slightly from the precinct results produced by counties (which explain the slight differences between the results that we've calculated and those calculated by the TLC).

In many cases, the VTDs relied upon by the TLC span multiple CDs, which would lead to more split precincts than otherwise necessary. Therefore, as a rule, we're relying on precinct results from counties where possible and only the TLC where needed (which means the counties of LaSalle; Lee, which had unallocated early votes; and Gonzales and Wilson, which want ridiculous sums of money for election results that should be freely available to the public). In each case, the total votes reported in the TLC data differ by fewer than five votes from those reported by the Texas Secretary of State. In large part, our calculations for the five districts previously marked provisional agree with those of the TLC; we're removing the provisional designation accordingly. (jeffmd)

WATN?: Personally, I have to blame thugs and criminals for this story: former GOP Alabama state agriculture commissioner candidate Dale Peterson, who ran the single greatest advertisement of the 2010 electoral cycle, was arrested late last year for shoplifting from a Hoover-area WalMart.

Late last week, Peterson opened up about his arrest with a whopper of an explanation. He blew past the checkout line with his $40 worth of merch because... wait for it... he had to pee really bad. He went to use a restroom outside of the store, apparently unaware (!) that when you go past the cash registers without paying, even if it is just to go explore the outdoor restroom facilities, you are officially shoplifting.

At this point, it seems appropriate to quote the man himself: "Who on earth would support such a dummy?!" (By the way, for a great parody ad, click here. You're welcome!) (Steve Singiser)

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 06:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos Elections.

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