• NJ-Sen: It's a done deal. Four Democrats and two Republicans have filed to run in this year's special election to fill the remainder of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg's Senate term. On the Dem side, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver have all submitted signatures, while former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and Some Dude physician Alieta Eck have done so for the GOP. Given Lonegan's extreme conservatism and Eck's utter lack of a profile, this means that Republicans have all but conceded the special in advance, so the real action will take place in the Democratic primary.
If there is any, that is. Two new polls released Monday show Booker with huge leads over the field, and his opponents have little time to catch up, with the primary only two months away. Quinnipiac finds Booker already taking a majority in a matchup with the two congressmen (Oliver declared her interest when the poll was already in the field); he takes 53 percent versus 10 for Holt and 9 for Pallone. Meanwhile, Rutgers-Eagleton, which also didn't include Oliver, came up with almost identical results: Booker 55, Pallone 9, Holt 7.
Oliver wouldn't have made a huge difference either way, though. The bottom line is that Booker, who has spent years cultivating a high profile, is simply far better known than all of the other candidates. (Booker did also just secure the endorsement of insurance executive George Norcross, whom the Philadelphia Inquirer calls "the most powerful figure in New Jersey Democratic politics.") Booker's support may well be of the mile-wide, inch-deep variety, but with such a compressed timeframe, that may well prove to be enough.
For his part, Pallone does have a sizable $3.7 million cash stockpile, which is much greater than Booker's $1.6 million war chest, but those numbers are almost two-and-a-half months out of date at this point and Booker may have made up the gap by now. With the non-Booker field split several ways, it will definitely be hard to stop Newark's mayor from winning the Democratic nomination.
Winning the general, though, should be easy, seeing as Quinnipiac already has Booker up 54-27 over Lonegan. (Pallone leads 39-29 and Holt 36-31.) But exactly when that election will take place may still be up for grabs. Gov. Chris Christie rather infamously set a date just a few weeks before the November gubernatorial election, a transparent move made simply so that he could avoid sharing the ballot with a popular Democrat like Booker. Most New Jerseyans may like Christie, but they are united against his scheduling decision, with 78 percent saying he should have consolidated the special with the regular election, according to Rutgers.
More importantly, a local Democratic official has filed a lawsuit saying the two elections should take place on the same day. You can view a copy of the complaint here (PDF), which features at least one claim that Adam B. describes as "not frivolous and kinda interesting." It's an unusual suit, so it's hard to say what its chances are, and my default assumption would be to expect the judiciary to defer to the executive, but you never know.
• IA-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, who seems to align himself with the Paulist wing of the Republican Party, just became the second person to formally enter the GOP primary. He joins former Chuck Grassley chief of staff David Young; state Sen. Joni Ernst may get in the race as well. On the other side, Rep. Bruce Braley has the Democratic nomination for this open seat all but sewn up.
• MA-Sen: If that McLaughlin & Associates poll conducted on behalf of "Republican donor and activist" John Jordan showing Gabriel Gomez trailing Dem Rep. Ed Markey by just a 45-44 spread had you concerned, allow the good folks of the Daily Kos Elections comment boards to assuage your worries. Darth Jeff and Paleo reminded me of a whole host of disastrous polls McLaughlin conducted in 2012, so I've compiled them all into one handy list:
• On Oct. 1 last year, McLaughlin had Rep. Bob Dold (R) up 44-37 in IL-10. He lost 51-49 to Brad Schneider.And for good measure, Halloran was arrested in April on corruption charges. So now I think you know whom to believe.
• On Oct. 4, McLaughlin had Mitt Romney up 50-46 in Colorado. He lost 51-46.
• On Oct. 9, after Richard Mourdock (R) called rape pregnancies a "gift from God," McLaughlin put him up 45-42. McLaughlin also showed Mourdock ahead 45-44 on Oct. 31. He lost IN-Sen 50-44 to Rep. Joe Donnelly.
• On Oct. 11, McLaughlin had Romney up 51-44 in Virginia. Nope. He lost 51-47.
• Also on Oct. 11, McLaughlin had George Allen (R) up 47-44 in VA-Sen. Nope again. He lost 53-47 to Tim Kaine.
• On Oct. 18, McLaughlin had Randy Altschuler (R) up 48-43 in NY-01. He lost 52-48 to Rep. Tim Bishop.
• On Oct. 22, McLaughlin amazingly had Barry Hinckley (R) trailing just 49-41 in RI-Sen. He lost to 65-35 to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.
• But best of all, also on Oct. 22, McLaughlin had Dan Halloran (R) trailing just 36-33 in NY-06. Grace Meng obliterated him 68-31.
Meanwhile, another pollster who doesn't exactly have a great reputation, but certainly can't be worse than McLaughlin, has some new numbers that are much more in line with everything else we've seen on the race. Suffolk University (of "paint them red" infamy) finds Markey up 48-41 over Gomez, similar to what the last couple of PPP polls have seen. However, Suffolk also managed to give Markey a 17-point lead just a month ago, and a 10-point drop doesn't really seem plausible. That survey looked like an outlier at the time, but the thing with outliers is that when you have a lot of credibility, it's easy to write them off as things that simply have to happen once in a while (as basic statistics would dictate). When you don't have much cred, though, they make you look like you don't know what you're doing.
P.S. On an unrelated note, a POTUS Alert we flashed last week actually turned out to be for a pair of events this Wednesday, not last Wednesday. Barack Obama is indeed visiting Boston to help Markey out, and he's not only fundraising but also leading a public rally at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at 11am Wednesday morning. The event is free and open to the public, but you need to reserve a ticket, which you can do here.
• WV-Sen: Democrat recruiting in West Virginia continues to come up empty. Big-name attorney Ralph Baxter has announced that he, too, will not run for Senate, which puts him in the same boat as another prominent lawyer who also recently made the same call, Nick Preservati. There are still a number of names out there, but we haven't heard many positive signs from the field lately.
• IA-Gov: A new poll of Iowa's gubernatorial race from Selzer & Co. (conducted on behalf of the Des Moines Register) shows GOP Gov. Terry Branstad in a domination position against state Sen. Jack Hatch. Branstad leads Hatch, who has not formally declared his candidacy but appears very close to doing so, by a huge 55-27 margin. Hatch, unsurprisingly, is virtually unknown (82 percent have never heard of him), but even so, Branstad starts the race on the comfortable side of 50 percent. Meanwhile, ex-Gov. Chet Culver, who at one point a while back made noises about seeking a rematch with Branstad, still has weak favorables at just 34-41, though he was not tested in a head-to-head matchup.
• VA-Gov: "Even Scott Rasmussen" has Democrat Terry McAuliffe up in Virginia's gubernatorial race, leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli by a 44-41 in the firm's first look at the contest this cycle.
Meanwhile, a bit higher up the food chain, the federal investigation into GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell's gift-taking scandal has escalated to a new level. The Washington Post reports that Delegate David Ramadan has been ordered to testify before a grand jury, which is the first public confirmation that the U.S. attorney overseeing the matter has in fact empaneled a grand jury. It's not clear what Ramadan might testify about (he said he was forbidden from speaking about the substance of his expected testimony), but he does appear to be tight with McDonnell, who gave $40,000 to Ramadan's campaign two years ago.
• WI-Gov: As we suspected back in January, Rep. Ron Kind almost certainly won't run against GOP Gov. Scott Walker next year. In new remarks, Kind says, "I don't think I'm going to be a candidate." Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like any Democrat wants to be.
• IL-17: Republican ex-Rep. Bobby Schilling, who lost to Democrat Sheri Bustos last year after serving a single term in Congress, says he's "leaning toward" a rematch in 2014. Schilling would almost certainly be Bustos's strongest potential opponent, but he'd have an uphill climb. Bustos beat him 53-47, but the bigger problem is that this district went for Barack Obama 58-41. And while the president may have received a home state bump, the 17th District is still blue-leaning turf. Schilling's convinced he'll have an easier time in a midterm election, and he certainly will. But "easier" doesn't mean "easy" by any stretch.
• CO Recall: Organizers of the effort to recall Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron over her support for Colorado's new gun safety laws turned in over 13,500 signatures on Monday, but that gives them an awfully thin cushion. They need 11,285 valid signatures to move forward, meaning that if only 20 percent of their petitions get dinged, the recall is kaput. (By contrast, organizers of the recall against state Senate President John Morse submitted twice as many signatures as needed.) And one important thing to bear in mind is that, as we've noted, Colorado law allows signers to withdraw their support from a recall after petitions are filed, so these guys may be on very thin ice indeed.
• Special Elections: We have a couple of legislative specials on Tuesday (along with the Virginia primaries). Johnny Longtorso has them covered:
Connecticut HD-53: This is an open Democratic seat in northeastern Connecticut, comprising the towns of Ashford, Tolland, and Willington. The candidates are Democrat Tony Horn, a musician and member of the Ashford Board of Finance and Republican Sam Belsito, a member of the Tolland Town Council. The district voted 54-45 for Obama in 2012. (ProudNewEnglander has much more on this contest.)I also forgot to mention the outcome of a special election for New Hampshire's 5th state House District from last week. Annoyingly, Republican ex-state Rep. Joe Osgood picked up this seat from the Democrats, defeating Larry Converse by a 57-43 margin, though it's important to note that Osgood only won by 332 votes to 246! That's how things often go in New Hampshire House, which has 400 members, frequent resignations and special elections, and, of course, sits in a very small state and consequently has small districts. So you can never really read anything into Granite State specials.
Florida HD-02: This is an open Republican seat comprised of parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. The candidates here are Democrat Jeremy Lau, a local union president, and Republican Mike Hill, an insurance agent.
• VA-LG: It looks like E.W. Jackson may be morphing from incendiary loudmouth to genuinely troubled candidate. It turns out that Jackson has a history of money troubles, involving tax liens, lawsuits for unpaid rent, a non-profit shuttered for failure to pay fees, and a personal bankruptcy. These issues date from 1985 but extend all the way up through last year, when Jackson was unsuccessfully seeking the GOP Senate nomination. The Washington Examiner also notes another problem, namely that Jackson "claims he was an adjunct professor at Northeastern University in Boston, but the school has no record of him."
Oh wait, did I just say "Washington Examiner?" Why yes I did. If you're not familiar with it, the Examiner is a right-wing tabloid owned by conservative rich guy Phil Anschutz that looks like what you'd get if the New York Post and the Boston Herald had a drunken one-night stand and then left the consequences at an orphanage run by James O'Keefe. So it's pretty remarkable to see a movement conservative rag take a shiv to someone like Jackson, which means I can only conclude that pragmatism is for once outweighing love of lunacy. Jackson has struck an incredibly defiant pose, and if a movement gathers steam to try to oust him, he feels more like a Todd Akin than, say, a Scott Lee Cohen. But the knives are out, and he'll have to watch his back.
• DCCC: In a new interview, DCCC chair Steve Israel candidly tells BuzzFeed's Ruby Cramer that a number of Democratic recruits have told him they're thinking about sitting out 2014 because they prefer to run in 2016, when they expect Hillary Clinton will be at the top of the ticket and will offer generous coat-tails, especially in more conservative turf once won by her husband. Israel has a pretty good response though, telling candidates that if they think "2016 is gonna be a better deal for you, it's gonna be a better deal for other Democrats in your district"—in other words, the odds of a contested primary will go up.
I'd add another point. Just because Bill Clinton won a district two decades ago really doesn't mean anything today. Yes, some very early polling has shown Hillary Clinton to be surprisingly strong in certain states that no longer seem competitive, but she's had four years to burnish her image in the much less partisan position of Secretary of State. Once she's back in the rough and tumble or ordinary politics, views of her will change. And Republicans have already given us a preview with their histrionics about Benghazi, which is as much about setting up Clinton as it is trying to score points against Barack Obama.
Don't get me wrong: I think Clinton could do very well in 2016. And all the usual reasons for downballot Democrats preferring to run in presidential years will certainly still apply. But I don't think it'll be a magic carpet ride for Dems further down the ticket, and Israel is certainly right about those primaries.
• Deaths: Republican Paul Cellucci, who served two partial terms as governor of Massachusetts before resigning to become George W. Bush's ambassador to Canada in 2001, has died of complications from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 65.