8:45 AM PT: NC-12: Looks like we may soon have another vacancy in the House. Barack Obama has nominated Democratic Rep. Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the department which is responsible for the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The 67-year-old Watt flirted with retirement last year, and even though he ultimately decided to seek another term, he made it clear he didn't plan to stick around much longer.
But will he get confirmed? GOP Sen. Ted Corker immediately signalled his hostility, saying that a Watt appointment would give "new meaning to the adage that the fox is guarding the hen house." And as Jonathan Chait points out, progressives have a lot of reasons to mistrust Watt as well, given his closeness with the financial industry in banking-heavy North Carolina, his home state. Sounds like a foolish waste of political capital on another bad pick by the president, and while I'd guess that Watt will probably squeeze through somehow, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if he failed to get confirmed.
As for Watt's 12th Congressional District, it's a solidly blue seat (79 percent Obama) that's also just shy of 50 percent African American. So if Watt does ascend to the FHFA, those hoping to succeed him will all be Democrats, and, like Watt, they are very likely to be black.
9:29 AM PT: WV-Sen, WV-03: Unsurprisingly, Rep. Nick Rahall says he will not run for the seat being left open by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller next year. Early this year, Rahall sounded like he was on a spirit quest to determine whether had had the requisite "fire in the belly" for a Senate bid, which struck me as strange because you either have the fire or you don't. You can't go looking for it.
But this is probably best for all involved, since I think Rahall would have had a hard time trying to succeed Rockefeller and also would have jeopardized his House seat, which has become incredibly conservative in recent years. Fortunately, Rahall will seek a remarkable 20th term, but it won't be easy. Indeed, going by Barack Obama's 2012 performance, he now sits in the second-reddest seat held by a Democrat. Fortunately, WV-03 still has some ancestrally Democratic tendencies, but last year Rahall only managed to win with 54 percent of the vote, a harbinger of tough elections to come.
The good news for Rahall, though, is that he won't have to contend with a ticket headed up by Obama, who only earned 33 percent of the vote here versus 65 for Mitt Romney. Still, the GOP plans to contest this seat seriously, and the NRCC is reportedly trying to recruit freshman state Sen. Bill Cole to take him on. Delegate Rick Snuffer, who held Rahall to that 8-point win last year is also considering a rematch. As for the Senate race, the DSCC seems most interested in businessman Nick Preservati, but so far, no one has stepped forward to announce a run.
9:54 AM PT: MI-Sen, MI-14: As expected, Rep. Gary Peters officially announced his entry into the race for Michigan's open Senate seat on Wednesday, giving Democrats their strongest possible candidate to replace the retiring Carl Levin. In 2008, Peters ousted GOP Rep. Joe Knollenberg in the 9th Congressional district, a swingy suburban Detroit seat, then managed to narrowly hang on two years later, in an election cycle when many other similarly situated Democrats were washed out by the GOP tide.
During the redistricting process which soon followed, Republicans eliminated Peters' seat, perhaps sensing him as a future threat. That move pushed Peters into a primary against fellow Rep. Hansen Clarke in the redrawn 14th, a very different district: It's in the city of Detroit itself, it went heavily for Obama, and it's one where a majority of the voters, like Clarke, are black. (Peters is white.) Despite having to change gears so dramatically from his prior two elections, Peters won an impressive 47-35 victory over Clarke.
With Peters now looking for a promotion, Clarke could conceivably run for this seat once more, though he seemed to have a surprisingly low level of interest in actually campaigning last year. Other potential contenders could include the third- and fourth-place finishers from that same primary, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and state Rep. Mary Waters. It's also possible that some of the candidates who tried to unseat veteran Rep. John Conyers in the neighboring 13th District in 2012 could also turn their attention to the 14th, particularly state Sen. Glenn Anderson, the runner up.
Regardless, interest will likely be high in Peters's seat, and given its dark blue hue, it will remain safely in Democratic hands. Meanwhile, Republicans still have no declared candidates in the Senate race, allowing Peters to get an early and unimpeded head start.
10:11 AM PT: LA Mayor: Hahah, wow! How in hell did Wendy Greuel not think this would utterly backfire in her face? Greuel, the Los Angeles city "controller" (oy, I know, but you can't make them spell "comptroller" right if they don't want to), is still on the attack against fellow Democrat Eric Garcetti, a city councilor and her rival in the May 21 mayoral runoff. Trailing in all but one oddball poll, she just sent out a mailer (PDF) lambasting Garcetti for accepting the endorsement of Kevin James, who finished third in the first round of voting. James, you see, is a Republican, so Greuel of course wants to use that fact to tarnish Garcetti with Democrats.
But oh did she ever screw up. Once upon a time, Greuel was no dummy, because she, too, courted James's support immediately after the primary. In fact, she started texting him, repeatedly and with smiley-face emoticons—texts that James was all too happy to publicize in the wake of Greuel's new round of attack flyers. And they are really good. A small sampling:
"How is your day looking? I am ready, willing and able!"So seriously, what was Greuel thinking by going after James and Garcetti when they had all these goofy texts up their sleeves? Judging by her campaign's amusing response, it doesn't seem like she was thinking at all:
"We could have talked for hours"
"I am stalking you :)"
"U are beloved – I hear it a lot!"
"Kevin James' release of the text exchange is pathetic and reveals absolutely nothing," said Greuel's chief strategist, John Shallman. "Eric Garcetti claims to be an Obama supporter and yet only Wendy Greuel had the guts to challenge Kevin James and his radical and extremist comments that compared President Obama to a Nazi sympathizer at their first televised debate."All I can say to that is: :-).
"Wendy would never have accepted Kevin James' endorsement without his unqualified apology for his racist and insensitive remarks," Shallman said.
10:23 AM PT: IL-10: If this is the return of Bob Dold! then the NRCC sure seems to have screwed up its rollout. Democratic operatives got their hands on a fundraising letter for the former Republican congressman that, tellingly, cited the new 2014 limits for campaign donations ($2,600 per person, up from $2,500). So is he planning a rematch against Rep. Brad Schneider, the Democrat who unseated him last year? Dold didn't return reporter Tom Robb's phone calls, and his finance director (who was listed on the letter) refused to talk.
The only person who would speak a word, in fact, was an NRCC spokesperson who could only say that she is "hopeful Mr. Dold will make a decision in the coming days to run for his seat again." Previously, NRCC chief Greg Walden had told the local press he was recruiting Dold to run again, but I can't imagine this is how he intended to launch his campaign. Bob Dold!
11:25 AM PT: OR Ballot: Activists in Oregon are currently gathering signatures to place a measure on next year's ballot that would allow voters to overturn the state's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage, and what a difference a decade makes. The original constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage passed by a 57-43 margin. Now, in a new poll (PDF) from DHM Research on behalf of a pair of local media organization, 49 percent of Oregonians support changing the constitution to undo this prohibition, while 42 oppose the effort. If DHM's numbers hold up, then Oregon would become the first state to repeal a popularly-approved marriage ban at the ballot box, but it surely wouldn't be the last.
11:51 AM PT: SC-01: Wowza. South Carolina Republicans are famous for stooping lower than anyone when it comes to political dirty tricks, but a flagrantly obvious push poll? Well, they did it to John McCain, and now, according to ThinkProgress, that's exactly the b.s. they're trying to pull on Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Here are some of the questions reportedly being asked by "SSI Polling," a "firm" that seems to have zero online presence outside of this story:
• "What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she had had an abortion?"Remember that a push poll is actually not a poll at all. It's a political attack phone call that masquerades as a real poll but is simply designed to spread lies, smears, and misinformation about its target. Push polls often get confused with legitimate message testing polls, where campaigns ask voters about both positive and negative details about themselves and their opponents, to gauge strengths, weaknesses, and possible angles of attack. But this nonsense is no such thing. The questions are so outrageously slanted—and there were none about Mark Sanford—making bad faith evident.
• "What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you a judge held her in contempt of court at her divorce proceedings?
• "What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if she had done jail time?"
• "What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she was caught running up a charge account bill?"
• "What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if she supported the failed stimulus plan?"
• "What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you unions contributed to her campaign?"
You also don't engage in message testing just days before an election. That's another hallmark of a push poll: They're typically done just ahead of Election Day, to make sure that negative information is fresh in voters' minds and also to minimize the chances of someone figuring out who's behind the operation. The one unusual thing about this push poll is that it wasn't automated. Typically they are, in order to reach as many voters as possible. (A normal poll might try to reach 500 or 1,000 respondents. A push poll wants to hit tens of thousands or more.)
This push poll, though, is apparently being conducted with live callers. That probably limits its scope, which is a good thing, but the weight of the evidence still makes it clear that this is not a real poll. And the weight of the evidence also says that whoever is responsible for this is a total scumbag.
12:05 PM PT: MA-Sen: Good news: On Wednesday morning, right after Rep. Ed Markey's victory in the special Senate primary, Massachusetts Democrats held a unity rally which, importantly, featured Rep. Stephen Lynch, Markey's opponent, who pledged to stand behind the man who had just defeated him. I also suspect that, ahem, Markey won't be taking any vacations and will take his campaign against Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez seriously, seeing as he immediately began hammering Gomez for refusing to take the so-called "People's Pledge" to limit the influence of outside money in the race.
As for how competitive an affair the June 25 election will actually be, PPP is going into the field this weekend, so we should get a good sense early next week. In the meantime, though, we've put together a map of Tuesday's Democratic special Senate primary results between Reps. Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch by town:
In contrast, Lynch did very well in towns south of the city of Boston, which also largely overlap with his 8th Congressional District. Markey, though, did pick off two affluent towns, Hingham and Cohasset, located in MA-08. He also narrowly carried the city of Boston: The sections of the city within MA-08 almost definitely went for Lynch but were narrowly offset by the more minority-heavy and professional areas. Other pockets of Lynch's strength included the towns south and west of Worcester, as well as in the Merrimack Valley along the New Hampshire border.
Our findings show something of a relationship between income and Markey's performance. Some of the more industrial cities (that are also Democratic strongholds) like Lowell and Fall River went for Lynch, and Markey only narrowly edged out a win in Worcester. There's also fairly strong correlation here (between 0.65 and 0.70) with both the 2008 Democratic primary for president, but also, interestingly enough, the 2010 special general election between Martha Coakley and Scott Brown. Indeed, if you were to build a regression model of Markey's performance, the 2010 special was, remarkably, a better predictor than the 2008 presidential primary. (David Nir & jeffmd)
12:14 PM PT: House: Unsurprisingly, it looks like Quinnipiac's generic congressional ballot poll from last month—the one that had Democrats on top by an amazing 8 points—was probably a bit of an outlier. Quinnipiac's newest poll still has Dems ahead, but by a smaller 41-37, down from 43-35. But given that the party in control of the White House is "supposed" to lose seats in the House in year six, this is good news for Democrats, even if it means we're still not likely to win back the majority.
12:22 PM PT: Oh, and about that "six-year itch" phenomenon, Sean Trende offers a rather good takedown of the conventional wisdom. Look at all midterm elections going back to 1870 (not just six-year midterms), Trende observes: "Two-term presidents almost always get thumped in one midterm election, but they almost never get thumped twice." (He offers some theories in his piece.) Seat gains are still rare—they've only happened in 1934, 1998, and 2002—but two consecutive large losses are even rarer.
12:50 PM PT: All that said, I'm definitely starting to get a bit worried that South Carolina Republicans are privy to new private polls (real polls) that show Sanford getting his mojo back. How else to explain the state's two senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, both offering their endorsements to Sanford on Wednesday? If they wanted to play it safe, they'd both just keep quiet. The previous group of Republicans who started inching their way back in Sanford's camp could be partly explained away for various reasons—Ron and Rand Paul are avowed weirdos, and Gov. Nikki Haley owes her career to Sanford—but Graham and Scott are insiders who wouldn't stick their necks out for a lost cause. I guess we'll know for sure after the weekend, when PPP releases its final poll of the race.
12:57 PM PT: HI-Gov: Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie confirmed this week that he'd seek a second term and formally launched his re-election campaign. The timing is notable because recent reports have said that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa will challenge Sen. Brian Schatz in the Democratic primary; earlier speculation suggested she was considering a bid against Abercrombie, too. It's conceivable Abercrombie, who is 74, might have opted against running again if he had to face Hanabusa, but assuming press accounts about her intentions are correct, he should have smooth sailing in both the primary and general. Still, I find it strange that Hanabusa appears not to have uttered a single word in public about her plans.
1:15 PM PT: Arizona: Gov. Jan Brewer just signed into law a measure that weakens Arizona's "resign to run" rules, which require that elected officials seeking another office must first resign their current posts before running for a second. Previously, the rules were triggered whenever a candidate formally launched a campaign or filed paperwork with the Secretary of State. Now, only the latter step will require someone to resign.
1:52 PM PT (David Jarman): Demographics: The New York Times has a moderately-interesting profile of the rapidly-growing swath of Asian-majority suburbia in the L.A. area's San Gabriel Valley, but buried within is an important tidbit about the Golden State: the number of Asian immigrants arriving in California is now more than double the number of Latino immigrants. I'm wondering if that has more to do with the much-noticed slowdown in Latino immigration than it does with a speedup in Asian immigration, but either way, it's a new wrinkle in the already-fascinating California tapestry. (The article also contains some quotes from Jay Chen, whom you might remember as the Dem candidate in CA-39 last year.)
2:16 PM PT: VA-Gov: Democrat Terry McAuliffe is out with his first television ad, following his Republican counterpart, Ken Cuccinelli, who made the same move last week. It's a positive biographical spot that emphasizes McAuliffe's family and his ties to Virginia
2:32 PM PT: GA-Sen, -Gov: As Democrats hunt for a candidate for Georgia's open seat Senate race, a new name has emerged. Second-term state Rep. Scott Holcomb says he's considering a bid, and adds that he's also looking at the governor's race, too. Holcomb is pretty young (around 40), served in Iraq as a member of the Army JAG Corps, and survived a GOP attempt to shove him into a tougher seat via redistricting last year. Given his age, Holcomb may want to wait for Georgia's demographics to shift further toward the Democrats before taking a leap on to the statewide stage, as he himself acknowledges. But if he were to run this cycle and acquit himself well even while losing, he could potentially set himself up well for the future.
2:52 PM PT: NV-Gov: Over the past two months, a major story has rocked the political world in Nevada, all thanks to a high-octane investigative crusade by an out-of-state paper, the Sacramento Bee. The Bee discovered that state-run Nevada mental hospitals were engaging in an unthinkably low and despicable practice: packing mentally ill patients on to Greyhound buses alone and shipping them off to California, where they had no family nor any arrangements for their care. Utterly revolting barely begins to describe this kind of abuse.
Thanks to the Bee, though, the story began to receive huge attention in both states, and in Nevada, it's reached all the way up to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Local analyst Jon Ralston now offers a tick-tock of how the entire saga unfolded, and how it's shaken Sandoval's administration, known for its sunny exterior and ruthless interior. Sandoval initially tried to stonewall, but follow-up reports from the Bee were so lacerating, and the subsequent Democratic pile-on so sustained, he ultimately had to respond, claiming the state was reversing its busing policy late last month.
But as Ralston notes, that certainly didn't put an end to the matter, as more negative stories have continued to emerge. Ralston says he thinks the Bee's investigation is "far from done," which would be good news for mental patients in Nevada, who badly need an advocate—and of course, very bad news for Sandoval, who desperately would like this story to go away. Will it ultimately hurt him for re-election next year? It's hard to say. But as Ralston observes, it's demonstrated a real weakness in Sandoval's operation, the kind of weakness that could potentially be exploited by an aggressive Democratic opponent in 2014.
3:07 PM PT: AR-04, AR-01: Two Democratic legislators in Arkansas have declined bids for Congress: state Sen. Bruce Maloch and state Rep. Marshall Wright. Maloch had previously said he might run in the 4th District if GOP Rep. Tom Cotton makes a Senate bid; Cotton hasn't yet decided one way or the other, but I guess Maloch didn't want to wait around any longer. Meanwhile, Wright reportedly is telling people he won't run in the 1st, which is held by sophomore Rep. Rick Crawford.
Talk Business reporter Michael Cook suggests a couple of other Democratic names, though, who are thinking about seeking office themselves: Mid-South Community College President Glen Fenter in the 1st and state Rep. Jeff Wardlaw in the 4th. Democratic recruitment in Arkansas was brutal last cycle, in part because legislators were trying to hold on to both the state House and Senate. But Republicans took control of both chambers, so perhaps more lawmakers might be interested in trying to move up.
4:04 PM PT: Corker's objections notwithstanding, other Republicans seem to be giving Watt good marks, including North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and, though he doesn't get a vote, House Financial Services chair Spencer Bachus.
And the Great Mentioner has predictably kicked into high gear, with the Charlotte Observer and Roll Call both offering plenty of names and a few quotes: state Sen. Malcolm Graham ("definitely running" if Watt is confirmed), former state House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman, Obama 2008 state political director Kevin Monroe, Charlotte City Councilor Patrick Cannon, state Reps. Rodney Moore ("strongly considering it"), Beverly Earle, Alma Adams, Marcus Brandon, and Ed Hanes, and former state NAACP chief Skip Alston (will run if Adams doesn't). Holliman, Roll Call notes, is white and would probably have to count on a crowded primary leading to a split in the black vote.