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Leading Off:

MA-05: With the all-important Oct. 15 Democratic primary to fill now-Sen. Ed Markey's vacant House seat looming, candidates are starting to go up on the airwaves. The first to do so wasstate Sen. Katherine Clark, who  created two ads and is spending $60,000 on cable, but hasn't said which spot will actually air. One features her mother talking about how she was steered away from engineering as a young girl, to which Clark responds, "Some things barely change. Today, the Republicans in Congress opposed equal pay for equal work, deny birth control." In the second, Clark says her grandmother, "a machinist in World war II" would "be heartbroken how the Republican extremist in Congress treat women."

State Rep. Carl Sciortino quickly followed Clark, with a $100,000 buy backing a non-traditional minute-long ad. It's a cutesy back and forth between Sciortino and his tea partying father, to whom he "comes out" as a "Massachusetts liberal." With some exasperation, pops rattles off Sciortino's various progressive achievements, but grudgingly admits he's "kinda proud" of his son, and still loves him, too.

Senate:

NH-Sen, -Gov: PPP's latest poll of New Hampshire finds freshman Sen. Jeanne Shaheen slipping a bit, but luckily for her, Republicans haven't found a single candidate to run against her—not even a sausage. Here's how she does against a very hypothetical field:

• 48-44 vs. ex-Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (Apr.: 52-41)
• 51-41 vs. ex-Rep. Charlie Bass
• 51-35 vs. ex-Sen. Bob Smith
• 50-33 vs. ex-state Sen. Jim Rubens
• 50-31 vs. conservative activist Karen Testerman
• 52-30 vs. UNH business school dean Dan Innis
Thanks to those very same GOP recruitment woes, the only person we have trendlines for is Brown, and while I very much doubt he'll actually drag his carpetbag up to the Granite State, Shaheen has seen her margin against him tighten by 7 points. Her job approval score has also fallen a similar amount, from 53-39 to 49-42. These are still good numbers, though, especially since it's almost autumn and Shaheen is still running unopposed.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, whose term lasts just two short years, also looks well-positioned for re-election. And she, too, faces nary a challenger and leads all the maybes:

• 49-34 vs. attorney Brad Cook
• 49-33 vs. state Sen. Chuck Morse
• 49-42 vs. state Rep. George Lambert
• 49-32 vs. state Sen. Andy Sanborn
If anything, this pile of nobodies is even less distinguished than the gang that might run for Senate. All of these Republicans have little name recognition, of course, but Hassan is right up against 50, and the GOP has a lot of other governor's races to worry about this cycle. (And as in Wisconsin, PPP also asked about the generic legislative ballot; once again, Democrats have only the tiniest of edges, 44-43.)

WV-Sen: As expected, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant made her campaign for Senate official on Tuesday, finally giving Democrats the big-name contender they've been desperate for to hold this difficult open seat. The establishment immediately rallied around Tennant, with Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller (the man she's hoping to replace) issuing statements of support, so she should have a clear path in the primary. (Tennant also has a welcome video.)

Tennant won't have an easy time against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the likely Republican nominee, but she does give Democrats a fighting chance. And West Virginia may be one of the few places where Democrats can do better in a mid-term election, with Barack Obama not at the top of the ballot. Tennant should also be able to attract national money, and she wouldn't have gotten in if polling didn't show her with a chance, so this will, at the very least, be a serious race.

Gubernatorial:

IL-Gov: When the news broke late on Monday night that former White House chief of staff Bill Daley was dropping out of the Democratic primary for governor, my first reaction was, "Holy smokes!" My second was, doesn't anyone want to take on Gov. Pat Quinn? With approvals in the dumps and few friends willing to stick up for him, Quinn is as vulnerable as incumbents come, and if he's the Democratic nominee next year, Republicans will likely have a much better shot at a pickup than they would facing any other opponent.

Not that I have any love for Daley, who described himself as "maybe more of a moderate pro-business Democrat than some like today" and all but admitted he was in over his head in telling the Chicago Tribune he was quitting. (Quote: "Is this really me? Is this really what I want to spend my next five to nine years doing?") But his departure does open the door to other ambitious Democrats. One possibility might be state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who had considered a bid but recently decided against the idea. Another could be former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman, who finished a relatively close second in the 2010 Democratic primary for Senate.

The filing deadline is Dec. 2, so there's still time for a challenger to put a campaign together. The primary is in March, though, so anyone who wants to consider a run had best make up his or her mind quickly. And if no one takes the leap, Democrats may be stuck trying to prop up a very damaged candidate in 2014.

KS-Gov: State House Minority Leader Paul Davis, who formed an exploratory committee last month, has now made his bid for governor official. He's also getting help from the last Democrat to serve as governor of Kansas: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is headed home to attend a "reception" for Davis on Thursday. (It's not clear if this event is also a fundraiser.) Davis is hoping to unseat GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.

PA-Gov: Former state environmental chief Kathleen McGinty is offering up an internal poll of the Democratic primary from Garin-Hart-Yang that shows her trailing front-runner Allyson Schwartz—even after candidate bios are read. On the initial ballot, Schwartz leads with 25, while McGinty is tied with businessman Tom Wolf and state Treasurer Rob McCord at 6 apiece.

On the informed trial heat, Schwartz still sits in first with 36, though McGinty zooms into a clear second place with 25, while Wolf only rises to 10 and McCord to 9. I never like to report these kinds of informed tests because they don't resemble anything found in the real world, but I'm doing so here because McGinty is evidently trying to position herself as the strongest non-Schwartz option. (Why else release a poll showing your own campaign stuck in second?) But we'll see if anyone bites.

VA-Gov: No wonder why Republicans are getting nervous. It's not just the polls showing Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the lead—he keeps dominating on the fundraising front, too. In July and August, McAuliffe raised almost $7.4 million, compared with $5.7 million for Republican Ken Cuccinelli. The difference is even starker when comparing cash on hand: McAuliffe has $5 million left in the bank while Cuccinelli has just $2.2 million. Both candidates have relied heavily on their party's gubernatorial committees, but it appears that the RGA has had to offer Cuccinelli a lot more support than the DGA has McAuliffe—and in spite of that, he's still well behind.

And, funny we should mention polling, because there's also yet another survey featuring T-Mac on top. Republican pollster Harper Polling, on behalf of the website Conservative Intelligence Briefing, finds McAuliffe ahead 42-37, with Libertarian Robert Sarvis at 10. Some other polls have shown Sarvis doing about as well, but it would be very surprising if he held on to such a sizable chunk of the vote come Election Day.

Finally, McAuliffe has a new ad featuring an OB-GYN who says she's "offended" that Cuccinelli "wants to make all abortion illegal." She finishes with a bit of a zinger: "I want a governor who's focused on schools and creating jobs, not someone who wants to do my job."

WI-Gov: PPP's new Wisconsin poll features GOP Gov. Scott Walker leading a quartet of potential opponents, though he hovers not far below the 50 percent mark in every matchup:

• 47-43 vs. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (Feb.: 48-43)
• 48-42 vs. businesswoman & Madison school board member Mary Burke
• 47-41 vs. state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
• 47-40 vs. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson
As you can see based on the Barca trendlines, nothing's changed here since February, when Walker's job approval rating was identical to the 48-49 score he receives now. Burke, the most likely Democrat to run, is little-known, with favorables of just 18-21. That gives her proverbial room to grow, especially if she's willing to invest part of her apparently considerable wealth on her own behalf. But a distressing 13 percent of self-identified Democrats say they're supporting Walker, so Burke would need to win back a good chunk of that contingent to have a chance.

PPP also ask a generic legislative ballot question—that is, would respondents vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate for legislature from their district. Dems have just a 1-point edge, 44-43, showing how hard it will be for the party to make gains next year. (Republicans control both chambers.)

House:

AL-01: Former RNC official Wells Griffith offers up one last ad ahead of Tuesday's for-all-the-marbles GOP primary in the AL-01 special election. In the cheaply-produced spot, Griffith says that his parents taught him to "look to the Bible and the constitution for wisdom and guidance," but then, picking up a stack of paper ("Obamacare"), he explains that he's running to relegate "this document" "to the trash pile of history." He then literally tosses the sheaf into a garbage can. Good luck, buddy.

IA-04: Biden Alert! The vice president is headlining a D.C. fundraiser next week for Iraq vet Jim Mowrer, who is waging an uphill fight against GOP Rep. Steve King. Mowrer, it turns out, worked for Biden's presidential campaign in Iowa in 2007, then became tight with Biden's son Beau when the two later served in Baghdad together. Maryland Rep. John Delaney is also hosting the vent.

IL-17: Conservative pollster We Ask America, on behalf of local tipsheet Capitol Fax, just polled the race in Illinois' 17th Congressional District, where ex-Rep. Bobby Schilling is attempting a comeback against the Democrat who beat him last year, Rep. Cheri Bustos. Bustos is up by a single point, 45-44, in WAA's one-day robopoll. However, WAA did not have a good record polling House races in Illinois last year, consistently overestimating GOP chances. In fact, in IL-17, they found Schilling up 52-48 in the final week. He lost, 53-47.

Other Races:

Minneapolis Mayor: Mayor R.T. Rybak's retirement has created a very crowded and competitive Nov. 5 race to succeed him. The Star Tribune has commissioned a survey from Pulse Opinion Research (Rasmussen Reports' pollster-for-hire) and they find a very unpredictable contest. Here is a quick guide to who's running, with their percentage in parentheses:

Dan Cohen: Former city Council President, former Republican running as an independent (16)
Don Samuels: City Councilor, only prominent black candidate, Democrat (16)
Betsy Hodges: City Councilor, Democrat (14)
Mark Andrew: Former Hennepin County Commissioner, former state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chair, Democrat (10)
Cam Winton: Attorney, Republican running as independent (9)
Jackie Cherryhomes: Former City Council President, Democrat (7)
Stephanie Woodruff: Accountant, Democrat, endorsed by Independence Party (5)
Bob Fine: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board member, Democrat (1)
Other: A bunch of Some Dudes including this guy (6)
Undecided: (16)
Despite leaving the City Council in the early 1970s, Cohen's media blitz has tied him for first at least for now. Andrew's camp is countering this poll with a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner internal, which has Andrew leading Hodges 27 to 18 percent, with Samuels in third with 10.

Making this race all the harder to handicap is the presence of ranked-choice voting, a seemingly simple concept that's surprisingly tough to summarize. But if you'd like to learn more about how it works, the Star Tribune offers a good explanation. It looks like a certainty that this race will be up in the air until all the votes are fully counted. (Darth Jeff)

Grab Bag:

Polltopia: It's been a long while since we've encouraged folks to vote for a particular state in PPP's weekly "where should we poll?" poll, but for the first time all cycle, the firm is offering West (by God!) Virginia as an option. Political analysts are keenly aware of the lack of quality polling out of the Mountain State this year, and it seems that PPP's obligations have precluded it from going into the field here. But evidently that's changed, and what's more, Natalie Tennant's entry on behalf of the Democrats makes this a race worth polling now. So please, for the love of data, pick West Virginia!

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Sep 18, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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