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Leading Off:

MT-Sen: So when will Democratic ex-Gov. Brian Schweitzer decide on whether to run for Senate? It sounds like he's waiting until the Late Holocene epoch:

"I'm a soil scientist. We're trained in how the Earth was formed," he said.

"The most important thing a soil scientist has an understanding of is time—glacial time ... I look at a mountain and I'm able to visualize how that mountain was created over 6 million years. You're a journalist. You read time as next week, tomorrow. I think of time geologically. When you see me say 'soon' you may be thinking days—but I think of time in millions of years sometimes."

Meanwhile, retiring Sen. Max Baucus has reportedly cut a $100,000 check to the DSCC (senators can make unlimited donations to the group). However, he is still sitting on a $4.9 million war chest, and given the fact that he's never going to run for office again, what's the point of holding on to all that cash? He should just give it over to the Senate Democrats in one lump sum and go out looking like a mensch. In this lifetime.

Senate:

AK-Sen: After considering the contest for some time, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell officially announced that he'd run for Senate on Tuesday, joining tea partier Joe Miller in the GOP primary. Treadwell carries the "establishment" mantle at the moment, and given Miller's unpopularity even with members of his own party, starts off with the edge for the nomination. But other candidates may yet enter, most notably Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan, which could scramble the calculus.

HI-Sen, -01: The Hawaii Democratic Party has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have its primaries closed to all but registered Democrats. That seems like it might be a difficult trick, since Hawaii does not register by party, and state law says that no eligible voters "shall be required to state a party preference or nonpartisanship as a condition of voting." Ballot Access News does note, though, that similar suits have met with some success in Idaho and Virginia.

So if Hawaii Democrats do succeed, how might this affect electoral politics in the state? Well, it should hopefully do what umpteen successive losses have failed to do to ex-Rep. Ed Case's political career: end it once and for all. Without Republican voters showing up to support him in primaries, Case (who might run for the open 1st District) would see his meager fortunes vanish altogether. It could also help Sen. Brian Schatz, who seems to be running to Rep. Colleen Hanabusa's left in the Senate primary, though that's much less clear.

MA-Sen: Republican Gabriel Gomez issued a press release on Tuesday, ostensibly penned by his pollster, claiming that he's down "only" 47-40 to Dem Rep. Ed Markey. With Election Day a week away, I guess this is the best "I'm not dead yet!" routine he can offer, though I can't see how this helps very much. Indeed as Darth Jeff reminds us, the saddest thing about this Gomez poll is the fact that a month ago, OnMessage had him down just 46-43. So even his own trendlines show a worsening picture. Oof!

And the link itself is a bit odd, since it's not a traditional polling memo but rather contains an exhortation from Curt Anderson of OnMessage Inc. to donate to Gomez. Anderson also claims that "Scott Brown was 9 points behind 10 days before the election," but that appears to be true only if you trust, strangely enough, either Rasmussen or the exposed-as-fake Research 2000.

MN-Sen: While we here at Daily Kos Elections occasionally miss stuff, we're most certainly close personal friends with the Great Mentioner himself, so it's a bit unusual for, say, a sitting state legislator to formally declare a campaign for Senate without ever once showing up in the Digest. And indeed, in this case, it's not because a link fell through the cracks: As the AP notes, Republican state Rep. Jim Abeler's decision to run against Sen. Al Franken was "surprising" given that he "hadn't been on the political radar" previously. But since I'm usually grumpy about candidates who drag their announcements out forever, I guess I can't complain about this insta-launch.

I'm not sure Franken has too much to worry about, given that Abeler is a Paulist who likes to worry about "debt to foreign countries threaten[ing] our sovereignty." At the same time, as The Hill's Cameron Joseph notes, Abeler has also occasionally been a thorn in his party's side and even earned support from a teachers union, which makes me wonder how he can win the GOP nomination. (Businessman Mike McFadden is the only other candidate in the race so far.)

NC-Sen: Sen. Kay Hagan's brief job approval bounce in PPP's monthly polling of their home state doesn't seem to have lasted. She's back to an almost even split at 41-42, which is basically where she's been all year, aside from last month's bump to 46-40. Hagan's head-to-heads against a variety of potential Republican candidates have also slipped a bit, too (May trendlines in parens):

• 44-40 vs. physician Greg Brannon (49-40)
• 44-40 vs. state Senate President Phil Berger (46-42)
• 45-40 vs. state House Speaker Thom Tillis (48-41)
• 46-39 vs. Rep. Renee Ellmers (48-39)
• 46-39 vs. Rep. Virginia Foxx (49-42)
• 46-38 vs. former Ambassador Jim Cain (48-41)
• 46-37 vs. Baptist leader Mark Harris (46-40)
• 45-36 vs. former Charlotte City Councilwoman Lynn Wheeler (48-37)
The oddest and most disturbing result is Hagan's 5-point drop against tea partying Some Dude Greg Brannon, whom Tom Jensen dutifully polled but didn't even include in last month's writeup, except with regard to the GOP primary. Indeed, none of these candidates are well-known at all, with the most prominent among them, Foxx, still at just 50 percent name recognition. That also probably helps explain her hypothetical primary lead, which has increased now that Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry has said she won't run:
Foxx: 23
Berger: 11
Tillis: 9
Ellmers: 9
Cain: 8
Brannon: 7
Harris: 4
Wheeler: 3
Given Foxx's long history of truly crazy statements, I'm sure Hagan would love to have her as the Republican nominee, though Tillis (the only declared candidate so far other than Brannon) and Berger have their own baggage thanks to the legislature's unpopularity. But will an unloved or even uncouth opponent be enough for Hagan to scrape to re-election? She'll have a serious fight on her hands no matter what.

Gubernatorial:

AL-Gov: There have been a couple of stories in the last few days about potential GOP primary challengers emerging for first-term Gov. Robert Bentley, but I don't get the sense that they'll amount to much. The most legit-seeming name so far belongs to state school board member Mary Scott Hunter, who says she is considering a bid. The school board is actually an elected position in Alabama, and Hunter represents one eighth of the state. But it's a big jump from there to governor, and unseating an incumbent in a primary is no easy task.

That said, the Republican establishment has never liked Bentley, who upset their preferred pick, Bradley Byrne, in 2010, with support from the teachers' union, no less. So if the powers that be are looking to gather their forces and knock Bentley off, we could see some action here.

FL-Gov: Republican Gov. Rick Scott may have achieved his highest-ever job approval score in Quinnipiac's new Florida poll, but he's still getting whooped for re-election, which is ultimately all that matters. Scott's approvals now stand at 43-44, up from 36-49 in March. However, he still trails ex-Gov. Charlie Crist 47-37—though that, too, is improved from Crist's comical 50-34 edge three months ago.

We also have the first numbers on a hypothetical matchup between Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson, who has refused to rule out a bid. Nelson's 48-38 lead is virtually identical to Crist's, which confirms my sense that Nelson would not necessarily be a stronger candidate than Crist. I've felt that way because when you have an unpopular incumbent like Scott, the election tends to focus on the person currently in office. A challenger has to meet certain hurdles of legitimacy, name recognition, and fundraising ability (which both Nelson and Crist readily do), but no matter whom Democrats nominate, the race is shaping up to be a referendum on Scott, not his opponent.

P.S. State Sen. Nan Rich, the only declared Democrat so far, trails Scott 42-36, thanks to the fact she's almost entirely unknown. That 42 percent score for Scott, though, is a portent of real trouble.

House:

AL-01: State Rep. Chad Fincher just became the latest Republican to join the crowded field for the special election that will be necessary once GOP Rep. Jo Bonner resigns in August. Reporter George Talbot has a full list of candidates here, and in a separate piece, he also offers some speculation about when the special will actually take place. Gov. Robert Bentley says he can't schedule it until there's a formal vacancy; once that happens, though, election officials "anticipate a primary election in late October, followed by a runoff six weeks later and a general election in early 2014."

CA-10: This Sacramento Bee editorial details one of the odder political stories I've seen in some time. It turns out that Rep. Jeff Denham, unusually for a Republican, is quite the rail fan. Not only does he want to pass legislation that would allow Amtrak passengers to travel with cats and dogs, but he also thinks that $6 billion in federal and state funds should be spent upgrading our nation's railroad infrastructure.

But here's what makes this all so bizarre: Denham wants to spend that money not in his home state of California but along the Northeast Corridor, where he doesn't exactly have a whole lot of constituents. It gets even better, though. Not only has that $6 billion already been appropriated for the Golden State, $2.6 billion of it is California money, approved by voters in 2008 to develop a new high-speed rail system. Denham is so implacably opposed to improved train serve in his own state that he wishes Maryland and Pennsylvania could take that horrible cash off California's hands somehow. What a weirdo.

CA-52: A new poll from SurveyUSA, for KGTV in San Diego, gives former City Councilman Carl DeMaio a 48-39 lead over freshman Democratic Rep. Scott Peters. That spread seems to echo an earlier Tarrance Group internal for the NRCC, which had DeMaio up 49-39, but that survey was hard to judge, since it wasn't clear if those numbers represented an initial ballot test or an informed test, after descriptions of both candidates are read and, typically, various positive and negative messages are trotted out for both sides.

So it might be tempting to conclude that SurveyUSA confirms the Tarrance data, especially since they correctly predicted a very close race for Peters last cycle, but I'd offer a few words of caution. For one, SUSA is notorious for numbers that bounce around all cycle, often only coming in line toward the very end. (Or for just being totally off-base. Skaje offers a raft of notable examples.) For another, the proportion of non-white voters in this poll seems a bit light, and while the sample sizes are very small, Hispanics and Asians both purportedly favor the Republican DeMaio, which almost certainly won't be the case on Election Day.

More to the point, it would be highly unusual for a Democratic incumbent who (a) has been on the job just six months; (b) is entirely free from the taint of any scandal; and (c) sits in a district Barack Obama won by 6 points to find himself in the 30s in a re-election poll. That's not to say Peters doesn't have a hell of a race on his hands; to the contrary, this is very probably a real tossup. But these "dead man walking" numbers just don't strike me as plausible.

KY-06: Elisabeth Jensen, director of the non-profit Race for Education, just became the first Democrat to formally enter the race against freshman GOP Rep. Andy Barr. It's not clear how much of a profile Jensen has in the district, but she is a graduate of Emerge Kentucky, which is part of the same "Emerge" network of organizations dedicated to grooming women candidates for office that Nevada's Erin Bilbray-Kohn has played a big role in. (Coincidentally, see our NV-03 item below for more.)

MN-06: A third Republican has entered the race to succeed Michele Bachmann. State Sen. Jon Pederson has filed paperwork with the FEC, joining ex-state Rep. Tom Emmer and Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah, though others are likely to get in.

NV-03: Democrat Erin Bilbray-Kohn just received permission from the FEC to continue working part-time as a consultant for Emerge Nevada, a group she founded that encourages women to run for office, while still running for office herself. With that clearance, Bilbray-Kohn says she's "getting closer" to a bid against GOP Rep. Joe Heck. This is also a good illustration of how hard it is to run for Congress, given that few people can afford to outright quit their jobs to do so. Assuming she runs, hopefully Bilbray-Kohn will be able to find the right balance between her two obligations, though I suspect that she'd eventually have to give up consulting as the race heats up.

PA-13: State Rep. Brendan Boyle just secured the endorsement of the local branch of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, making them the 16th union to back his candidacy. Nick Field at PoliticsPA explains that Boyle's success on this front has a lot to do with the fact that powerful Rep. Bob Brady, whose ties to labor are very strong, is supporting Boyle. Boyle also hails from Philadelphia, which is the center of gravity for the labor movement in the region. The 13th is split almost in half between suburban Montgomery County and the city, which would very much like to lay claim to a third representative for the first time in over a decade.

Other Races:

NYC Mayor: This probably is not good news for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. The powerful labor-backed Working Families Party says it will not endorse a Democratic candidate on its ballot line, instead nominating a placeholder who will step aside after the primary, or perhaps the runoff. De Blasio, the most visibly progressive member of the field (at least, among those candidates whose ex-treasurer wasn't just convicted of fraud), has been banking on union support to carry him over the finish line. But while individual labor groups are still free to back whomever they like, the fact that the WFP isn't coalescing around de Blasio makes things a lot tougher for him.

UT-AG: When 78 percent of voters think you should resign and, barring that, 70 percent want the legislature to impeach you, maybe it's time to go. That's what a new BYU poll shows for Republican state AG John Swallow, who has been utterly immersed in scandal since almost the moment he took office in January. If you're just catching up with Swallow now, the Salt Lake Tribune offers a good one-paragraph condensation of all of his woes:

Swallow faces investigations from federal, state and county authorities into numerous allegations, including that he helped broker deals to assist a businessman suspected of cheating customers and that he promised protection to potential donors to his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff. Swallow also faces at least two ethics complaints filed with the Utah State Bar.
That's a lot of investigations! And indeed, lawmakers in the GOP-dominated state House are convening this week to discuss the possibility of moving forward with impeachment proceedings. That would be a big step: Apparently, no government official has ever been impeached before in Utah. Swallow might want to save himself the trouble of becoming a footnote in state history, but given that he's stuck around this long (and sounds inclined to fight any attempt to remove him from office), he may wind up going down like Rod Blagojevich. What a way to go.

Grab Bag:

Polltopia: Landline telephones continue to go the way of galoshes and buggy whips, according to the Centers for Disease Control (which, oddly enough, is the best source for information on the demographics of phone use). Their newest study on the subject finds 38.2 percent of adults lived in a household with a landline in the second half of 2012 (of them, 36.5 percent had a cellphone, though). That's particularly pronounced among young people, peaking at the 25-29 segment with 62.1 percent living cell-only. But this phenomenon is also zooming up among the middle-aged too. Even among the 45-64 set, 28.4 percent are cell-only, up from 14.9 percent in 2009.

In addition, Hispanics are particularly likely to cut the cord, with just over half in cell-only households. By contrast, 39 percent of blacks and 33 percent of whites are cell-only. The implications for the polling business, of course, are that this makes it even harder to reach already-hard-to-reach segments like young and Hispanic voters. That just makes finding new sampling methods (like Internet-based panels) more important, as well as increasing the importance of getting your demographic-based weighting right. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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