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9:16 AM PT: VA-LG: Peak wingnut: Allen West to headline fundraiser for E.W. Jackson.

10:38 AM PT: CA-21: Former congressional staffer Amanda Renteria, whom Nathan Gonzales said was considering a run against GOP Rep. David Valadao just the other week, will officially launch her campaign this weekend. Renteria has never sought office before, but she'd be a definite upgrade over the Some Dude-ish character Democrats got stuck with last cycle in this 55 percent Obama district.

11:09 AM PT: Votes: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's kamikaze effort to shut down the government failed as expected on Friday, as only 18 of his fellow Republicans joined him in voting against cloture on the so-called continuing resolution that would provide stopgap funding for federal functions through Dec. 15. Somewhat surprisingly, several senators from swing states sided with Cruz: Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Dean Heller (Nevada), Rob Portman (Ohio), Marco Rubio (Florida), and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania). All but Heller will be up for re-election in 2016, and their support for this radical attempt to bring the federal government to a halt and defund Obamacare could very well wind up being used against them.

11:53 AM PT: Massachusetts: PPP finds freshman Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren's job approval rating jumping a bit, from 44-39 in May to 52-39 now. There's also broad support for a potential ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage to $10.50 (61-30), and for another that would grant workers an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked (50-31).

12:46 PM PT: TX-Gov: This could be big. Tea party activist Debra Medina, who took 19 percent in the 2010 Republican primary for governor, says she may abandon her nascent bid for state comptroller and instead run for governor—as an independent. Yes, Medina has a Some Dude's profile, but she didn't run in some random election: She managed to score nearly one-in-five votes running against two major heavyweights, Gov. Rick Perry and then-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. If she were to enter this year's gubernatorial race, she could wind up being the difference-maker that Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis needs to pull off an upset.

12:54 PM PT (Darth Jeff): NJ Legislature: New Jersey Republicans are hoping that Chris Christie’s big lead in the polls will translate to GOP pickups in the state legislature, but a new Stockton College poll indicates they'll need to work for it. In the state’s historically Republican first legislative district, incumbent Democrat Jeff Van Drew easily leads his Republican opponent 62 to 29 percent despite Christie's 60-28 performance at the top of the ticket. The Assembly contest in the district is a lot closer. Incumbent Democrats Nelson Albano and Bob Andrzejczak take 24 and 21 respectively, while Republicans Sam Fiocchi and Kristine Gabor are each at 17 percent (the two candidates with the most votes become the district’s two Assemblymembers).

Our preliminary calculations say Obama won this district 53-46 in 2012, so if the GOP wants to make real gains this district is exactly the sort of place they need to do well in. It’s worth noting that a similar Stockton poll from this time in 2011 painted a more optimistic picture for the Democrats than what happened in November, so things very well could change here.  

1:21 PM PT: KY-Sen: The Senate Majority PAC, one of the heaviest hitters among Democratic super PACs, is going up with a reported $75,000 buy on a radio ad attacking Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The spot highlights McConnell's 30-year tenure in Congress, mentioning that he's served "10,000 days" in office five different times. I'm gonna guess framing McConnell's career in that way polls very well. Or very poorly, for McConnell.

1:37 PM PT: VA-Gov: The NRA is riding into Virginia in an attempt to bail out Republican Ken Cuccinelli with $500,000 worth of ads, running both on TV and online. The spots aren't available yet, but guns have not factored prominently in this race, and I'd be surprised if they became a major issue at this late date.

Cuccinelli also has another ad of his own, featuring Dinwiddie County Commonwealth's Attorney Lisa Caruso praising him for "keeping our children safe" as soft music plays. It seems like a pretty obvious play for women voters, a demographic Cuccinelli has fared very poorly with this campaign.

2:12 PM PT (David Jarman): Presidential elections: Political science professor Tom Holbrook has a series of cool graphics in a post on his blog that takes 550 data points that most of us are at least somewhat familiar with -- how the presidential vote went in each state over the period from 1972 to 2012 -- and presents them in a fresh new way. It's a time-series graph for each state, using the "centered Democratic share of the two-party vote" (which is really a fancy way of saying PVI), and then the graphs are ordered from biggest Democratic trend to biggest Republican trend. Here's half of the graphs (click through to his post to see the other half):

Presidential numbers by state
Presidential numbers by state

Many of what we think of as the "bluest" states weren't always that way: Vermont, California, even Hawaii started the post-civil-rights period very competitive, and New Hampshire was an outright red state. Meanwhile, in the realm of the fastest downward slopes, West Virginia started out blue (although George McGovern managed to bomb even there in 1972), while Oklahoma and Kentucky began near the median. If you're wondering which slope is the flattest, it may well be good ol' reliable Ohio, the swingiest of states not just last year but throughout the last 40 years; other traditional swing states Pennsylvania and Iowa also barely trend at all, though always slightly above the nation's median.

It's also a good tool for spotting how certain candidates had regional strengths that broke up the overall trend in some states. A fairly recent example is Bill Clinton moving the needle a lot, if only briefly, in Arkansas, but a much more profound effect was Jimmy Carter, who pushed a number of the Deep South states strongly in the Dem direction, not just in 1976 but also 1980. (Also standing out like a sore thumb: Michael Dukakis's 1988 overperformance in the upper Midwest, especially Iowa.)

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