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Leading Off:

California: Gather round, children, and listen to the story of Nathan Fletcher, told in blockquote format. We begin in February 2012:

The Republican most frequently mentioned as a future contender for statewide office, meanwhile, delivered his stump speech to about 12 people in a living room across town.

The candidate, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, is immersed in San Diego's mayoral race. Fletcher is far from certain to win—his prospects appear to be improving, though he still is trailing in local polls. But comparisons to Pete Wilson, the former assemblyman who went on to become San Diego mayor, a U.S. senator and then governor, are encouraging to many Republicans.

Ah, to be a rising star in a hard-luck party in the nation's biggest state. There could be worse things, though—like remaining a member of that hard-luck party. Just one month later, in March 2012:
California State Assemblyman and San Diego mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher, seen as one of the California Republican Party's most promising future possibilities for statewide office, announced today he's abandoning the GOP and "partisan politics" to become an independent.
And now the circle is complete. May 2013:
Fletcher posted a lengthy announcement to his Facebook page and in an email sent to supporters Saturday morning explaining his decision.

"I was reluctant to make this move. It wasn't due to any doubt about where I belong. It was simple dread over the criticism I would face," he said. "Despite my change in partisan affiliation, I have no animosity towards the Republican Party. I know many good people there, including friends, co-workers, and many I hold in high regard. I just owe it to them and myself to admit that I don't belong anymore."

Fletcher is presently out of politics, working for Qualcomm in some kind of executive gig, but he also does some television commentary for a local TV station. And he's only 36 years old, which leaves plenty of time for a comeback. Just over a year ago, Nathan Fletcher was the lone bright spot for the state GOP. But if he ever does decide to throw his hat back in the proverbial ring, it'll be, of course, as a Democrat.

Senate:

IA-Sen: After declaring he was "embarrassed" to have waited until May to make up his mind, Rep. Steve King—aka the GOP's Plan B—took to Twitter late on Friday night to announce, unsurprisingly, that he would not run for Senate. Like the more famous Plan B (the emergency birth control pill, natch), Republicans didn't seem very Keen on King, at least as far as a bid for statewide office was concerned; chop-licking Democrats, meanwhile, will have to content themselves with the fact that Plans A, C, and D (Tom Latham, Kim Reynolds, and Bill Northey) have all also declined.

As they get perilously close to Preparation H, that leaves Republicans with some decidedly slim pickins'. Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker says he's getting ready to run, but I'm not sure a candidate who says he "would vote only for legislation that's constitutional and pattern himself after tea party favorite U.S. Sen. Rand Paul" is going to be the winning ticket. State Sen. Joni Ernst says she's "feeling good" about a potential run but that she still needs to "do more praying." And former state Rep. Rod Roberts says he's "giving very serious consideration" to the race, but his only prior statewide bid involved taking under 9 percent in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary.

Gubernatorial:

AK-Gov: After all that, Republican Gov. Sean Parnell simply announced that he'd seek re-election, rather than run for Senate or House.

MN-Gov: As expected, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has entered the race for governor, making him the second Republican to do so, along with businessman Scott Honour. Johnson ran for statewide office once before, losing the 2006 attorney general's race to Lori Swanson 53-41—but remember, Jeff Johnson: It's the name you know!

NJ-Gov: In new fundraising disclosures, GOP Gov. Chris Christie has reported raising $6.2 million for his re-election campaign to date, while sitting on $3.4 million in cash-on-hand. Democrat Barbara Buono has raised about $740,000, which has also earned her $1 million in matching funds. (Christie has opted out of receiving any public financing.)

VA-Gov: The Washington Post's first poll of this fall's Virginia gubernatorial race paints a pretty different picture than any other we've seen to date. They have Republican AG Ken Cuccinelli up 46-41 over former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe among registered voters, while he leads by twice that margin, 51-41, among "likely" voters. I put that word in scare quotes, though, because according to Jon Cohen, the Post's polling director, their "likely" voters only include "absolutely certain" voters, which is not a typical screen.

Except for weirdo Roanoke College (which was also off-base last cycle), all other polling has shown a close race, with alternating small leads for Cuccinelli and McAuliffe, so it's tempting to look for an explanation. The same survey has GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell with a very high 62-25 job approval rating, which seems somewhat remarkable given that he's mostly made headlines lately thanks to the Star Scientific scandal. But barely a third of voters say they've been following the story even somewhat closely, so perhaps it hasn't had a major impact yet.

And indeed, McDonnell's approvals aren't vastly different from the last time the WaPo asked about him, back in September. Then he had a 58-27 score, and what's more, that same poll had Democrat Tim Kaine up 8 points in the Senate race, one of the largest leads any pollster gave him, making it hard to say that that poll was too skewed to the GOP.

So I'm not really sure what's going on with the Cuccinelli-McAuliffe matchup. It's worth noting, though, that the former has done a somewhat better job to date of locking up partisans than the latter: Self-identified Republicans say they're backing Cuccinelli by a 95-3 margin, while Democrats favor McAuliffe 87-5, a 10-point net difference. Perhaps more importantly, independents are supporting Cuccinelli 42-37. McAuliffe will never fire up his base the way Cuccinelli can his, but with his vastly greater war chest, he can and must make Cuccinelli unacceptable to middle-of-the-road voters. And that part of the campaign simply hasn't gotten underway yet.

WI-Gov: A while back, we mentioned an online effort to draft Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca to run against Republican Gov. Scott Walker next year. In recent remarks, Barca didn't address the draft movement, but he did finally go on record about his interest in a gubernatorial bid… and as you might guess, it's not high. A reporter describes Barca as saying he "hasn't given serious thought" to challenging Walker, and Barca himself says that Democrats will soon "have many meetings with a lot of potential candidates," which makes it sound like he doesn't consider himself among that number.

House:

CA-31: The endorsement hunt is on in CA-31, where 2012 candidate Pete Aguilar is butting heads with ex-Rep. Joe Baca as each seeks to be the Democratic standard-bearer come next year. Aguilar just announced the backing of two sitting congressmembers who serve nearby districts, Loretta Sánchez and Gloria Negrete McLeod, as well as that of several other local officials. Negrete McLeod, of course, defeated Baca in a huge upset last fall, after which Baca said he'd seek a rematch—until he switched gears a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, Sánchez once accused Baca of calling her a "whore," and along with several other members, left the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which Baca then chaired, in disgust.

FL-18: Too funny! Alan Schlesinger, aka Alan Gold, aka the sad-sack who couldn't even muster 10 percent of the vote running as a Republican in Connecticut's 2006 Senate smackdown between Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman, has re-emerged in the vicinity of Palm Beach, with the intention of taking on freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy in Florida's 18th Congressional District. In perfect form for someone attempting such an extreme level of carpetbagging, the statement of organization (PDF) that Schlesingold filed with the FEC lists his headquarters in Tallahassee, clear on the other side of the state.

Even if he'd managed to get his geography straight, I doubt too many of his fellow Republicans would fear him much. Indeed, at least one other candidate is entering the race, Ellen Andel, the vice mayor pro tem of Juno Beach. Quite a mouthful for a town of 3,000 souls, but there are bigger, badder fish still swimming just off the coast. The same link mentions several other possibles, including state Rep. Gayle Harrell, St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery, ex-state Rep. Carl Domino, former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest, businessman Gary Uber, and even former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who unsuccessfully ran in the neighboring 22nd District last year.

SC-01: A major reversal of fortune in SC-01: Mark Sanford has nosed out to a 47-46 lead over Elizabeth Colbert Busch in PPP's final poll. Two weeks ago, Colbert Busch had a wide 50-41 edge, but it seems like the district's partisan lean is reasserting itself. Colbert Busch's favorability rating has dropped 19 net points over that time (from 56-31 to 50-44), while Sanford's has moved up 7 points (from 38-56 to 43-54). What's more, the electorate went from one that supported Romney by just 5 points in November to one that's now Romney +13—much closer to his actual 18-point win here last year. As Tom Jensen says, things are certainly moving in Sanford's direction.

An additional thing to note about PPP's poll is that the Green Party candidate, Eugene Platt, is now pulling 4 percent of the vote. It would obviously be maddening beyond measure if Platt managed to provide Sanford's margin of victory, though who knows why anyone would pull the Green Party lever in a district like this. I also have to wonder if Democrats made a mistake by not running ads about Sanford's trespassing, which, after all, was the story that blew this race wide open three weeks ago.

But I can't say I'm surprised that things have now bounced back in Sanford's favor. Last week, ordinarily risk-averse Republicans like Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott decided to finally endorse their fellow party member, something they probably would have avoided doing if Sanford were headed toward an ignominious defeat. And while the toplines look very close, the remaining undecideds are decidedly GOP-leaning. Of course, this is only one poll (though the results are very similar to that RRH survey), but the advantage now seems to be Sanford's.

Other Races:

Special Elections: After a break in the action, Johnny Longtorso is back with the latest legislative special:

Ballotpedia had an entry for an Alabama House special on Tuesday, but the Democrat dropped out last month so the Republican became the winner by default. That just leaves us with one this week:

Michigan SD-27: Open Democratic seat in Genesee County. The candidates are Democrat Jim Ananich, a state representative, Republican Robert Daunt, who was Ananich's opponent in 2012 (he lost 3-1), and Green Bobby Jones. This is an overwhelmingly Democratic district, so there's no drama here.

Grab Bag:

House: If you're an observer of congressional elections—and if you're reading this, you are—then David Jarman's new essay, the first in a series, is a must-read. Jarman takes a close look at that most basic, yet crucial, of building blocks: the list of Democrats who sit in the reddest districts, according to the results of the 2012 presidential election, and their opposite numbers, the Republicans who represent the bluest seats. Given how polarized elections have become in this country, most of the House battleground next year will focus on these districts, so it's important to know them well.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue May 07, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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