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Leading Off:

WV-Sen: Election junkies have been begging Public Policy Polling to survey West Virginia all year long, and now the firm has generously obliged. Unfortunately for Democrats, the numbers don't look good at all. Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito leads Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who just entered the race, by a 50-36 margin. Capito, with a 45-36 favorability rating, has somewhat better name recognition than Tennant, who sports a 39-32 score.

If there's a positive note here, Capito only has a 47-44 lead among voters familiar with both candidates. Ultimately, both women will wind up equally well-known, and presumably Tennant was encouraged by poll numbers like these when she decided to run. But the headwinds she faces are considerable. Barack Obama sports an abysmal 28-67 job approval rating, his worst state in PPP's polling apart from Wyoming. Even Democrats only give him 45-49 marks. Tennant's lucky Obama won't be on the ballot, but the GOP will work hard to make him a factor.

As for hopes that Capito might get derailed by a tea partier in the primary, well, don't hope too hard. She scores 72 percent while a variety of Some Dudes lag in the low single digits. She even wallops Republican Jesus (aka "someone more conservative") by a 65-21 margin. Capito may be far from the ideal candidate for movement conservatives in D.C., but she seems to suit West Virginia Republicans just fine. And right now, she suits a bare majority of West Virginia voters, too.

This is, of course, just one poll. It would be nice to have more data, but few reputable pollsters ever seem interested in polling the Mountain State. Regardless, Tennant certainly has her work cut out for her. She'll have to try to make Capito as unpopular as possible, and run on a populist message while distancing herself from the president. It's not impossible (and Tennant has won statewide before), but Capito remains the favorite.


IA-Sen: Man, what a lot of sturm und drang over nothing. The Iowa GOP's central committee just voted to reverse party chair A.J. Spiker's attempt to move next year's state convention from June to July. That pleases establishment Republicans, who were worried that Spiker and his Paulist allies were trying to draw out (and perhaps hijack) the process for picking a Senate nominee, which would take place at the convention if no candidate earns 35 percent in the June 3 primary. Still, the GOP could find itself with a messy nomination fight on its hands regardless.

MA-Gov, -Sen: In addition to its West Virginia poll, PPP also released a new survey of Massachusetts, which is holding both gubernatorial and senatorial races next year. The Democratic primary for governor is already looking remarkably lopsided:

Martha Coakley: 57
Steve Grossman: 10
Don Berwick: 6
Joe Avellone: 4
Dan Wolf: 3
Juliette Kayyem: 2
Undecided/other: 17
It's a remarkable comeback for Coakley, who of course earned a lot of Democratic ire for failing to stop Scott Brown in the 2010 special election for Senate. Those wounds seem to have healed, though, seeing as she has a 63-23 favorability rating among primary voters. And even if Rep. Mike Capuano were to enter the race, she'd still be in a dominant position, with a 41-21 lead and everyone else in single digits.

Coakley would also swamp likely GOP nominee Charlie Baker by a 51-38 margin. Capuano leads him, too, 42-37, but by virtue of their very limited name recognition, the other Democratic candidates trail Baker by anywhere from 1 to 10 points. Baker doesn't score higher than 40 in any matchup, though that's also partly due to his own relatively limited profile (two in five voters don't have an opinion of him). He'd be very lucky to perform better than he did in 2010, when, despite the GOP wave, he lost by 6 points. PPP's new data indicates that Baker isn't about to get lucky.

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, newly elected Sen. Ed Markey would beat his special election opponent, Republican Gabriel Gomez, by 53-35 in a rematch. He'd also manhandle 2012 MA-06 nominee Richard Tisei 54-27. Markey would face a closer fight with ex-Gov. Bill Weld, but the incumbent still leads 47-41, and I can't imagine Weld being seriously interested. Brown would give Markey the toughest fight, naturally; Markey has just a 46-45 edge in that matchup. But Brown already declined a gubernatorial bid, and he's living fat and happy as a lobbyist these days, so I'd be surprised if he tried again, too.

NJ-Sen: Quinnipiac just moved to a likely voter screen for next month's Senate special election, and in so doing, they've found a much tighter race than anyone else has. Democrat Cory Booker holds a 53-41 lead over Republican Steve Lonegan, down from Booker's 54-29 edge in early August, when Quinnipiac was still surveying just registered voters.

That 12-point spread seems a bit outlier-ish, though, since both Stockton and Rutgers recently released polls—both using likely voter models—showing Booker much further ahead. Then again, a Wednesday election in October of an odd-numbered year is almost guaranteed to depress Democratic turnout, so perhaps Quinnipiac is on to something. Lonegan, though, has zero institutional support, and even in this latest poll, Booker is over 50 percent, so a GOP upset is only a distant dream.


ME-Gov: In case there was any doubt, attorney Eliot Cutler, who had long been gearing up for another bid for governor, formally launched his campaign on Tuesday. Thanks to an unusually weak Democratic candidate in 2010 plus a monster GOP wave, Cutler, running as a left-leaning independent, managed to finish a close second in that year's gubernatorial race. But it seems that a lot of Maine Democrats who were sympathetic to Cutler last time no longer are, as recent polls have shown Dem Rep. Mike Michaud winning a plurality, while Cutler had fallen to a distant third behind Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Cutler would have been smart to bow out, but he just doesn't seem like the kind of guy to make that choice.

MI-Gov: Even though he insists he hasn't decided whether to seek re-election yet, GOP Gov. Rick Snyder is already running ads touting his accomplishments. Snyder has a brutally cheesy minute-long spot that praises Michigan's alleged comeback and once again tries to frame him as a nerd the state needs, much as he successfully did in 2010. It's possible that Snyder is trying to see if he can fluff up his weak poll numbers before making up his mind about running for a second term. There's no word on the size of the buy, though, so this may just be a play for a little bit of free media coverage.

NJ-Gov: Stockton College finds GOP Gov. Chris Christie with a 58-30 advantage over Democrat Barbara Buono among likely voters, a bit bigger than the (still considerable) 20-point leads Christie's enjoyed in other recent polls.

PA-Gov: State Treasurer Rob McCord has finally made his long-expected bid for governor official, rolling out his campaign with a rather low-key email and video. (Amusing: The video shows McCord and his wife sitting around the breakfast table reading the New York Times, which I'm pretty sure is an out-of-state paper.) McCord joins a very crowded field in the Democratic primary, which includes Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, former state environmental chiefs Katie McGinty and John Hanger, and businessman Tom Wolf. They're all vying to take on wounded GOP Gov. Tom Corbett next year.

VA-Gov: We have two new polls of the Virginia governor's race, and both show Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli. The Washington Post and Abt SRBI find McAuliffe ahead 47-39, with Libertarian Robert Sarvis taking 10 percent. Without Sarvis in the picture, T-Mac's lead is a narrower 49-44, suggesting that the penniless Sarvis—who is unlikely to perform at his current level on Election Day—is hurting Cuccinelli more.

Marist's survey for NBC, meanwhile, finds McAuliffe up 43-38, while Sarvis gets 8. That's a lot tighter than the WaPo, of course, and it also puts McAuliffe much further from the 50 percent mark. But note that the prior surveys from both pollsters had Cuccinelli leading. In April, Marist had Cuccinelli ahead 45-42 while the Post had him winning by an improbable 51-41 spread that same month. I'd also note that the Post has McAuliffe somehow earning the vote of 21 percent of self-identified conservatives, so just be skeptical.


ID-02, CA-07: FreedomWorks, one of the foremost conservative meddlers in GOP primaries, just issued two endorsements in two very different races. In Idaho's 2nd, they're following the Club for Growth's lead and backing attorney Bryan Smith, who is trying to unseat establishment Rep. Mike Simpson.

In California's 7th, meanwhile, they're supporting former congressional aide Igor Birman, who is hoping to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera. Birman, however, is vying for the privilege with two other Republicans, 2012 Senate nominee Elizabeth Emken and ex-Rep. Doug Ose, a bête noire of movement conservatives. If Bera is hoping to face the most unpalatably right-wing opponent possible, FreedomWorks just did him a solid.

MO-08: Well, this could be fun. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who was forced to abandon his gubernatorial dreams last cycle on account of his bizarre personal behavior, is considering a primary challenge to the newest member of the House, GOP Rep. Jason Smith. Smith won a special election earlier this year to fill ex-Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's seat after her resignation, after scoring the Republican nomination thanks to a vote among a handful of local officials. The man he defeated for that privilege was none other than Kinder, but earning the support of 50 guys in a back room is quite different from winning a primary.

Smith seems ready, though: Kinder's publicly tried to position himself to Smith's right on Obamacare, but Smith is right there with him. Kinder's a much more established pol, though, and his greater name recognition would be an obvious advantage. However, he brings a lot of baggage with him. One nameless GOP strategist claims that's a non-issue, saying "There is nothing new they can use against him. It is all out there." I'm not so sure. Kinder only narrowly survived his primary and the general election last year, and for every David Vitter out there, there's an Eliot Spitzer.

PA-09: One of the likeliest-to-succeed primary challenges to an establishment GOPer from the far right has been flying under the radar so far, but Roll Call digs deeper into the race against Bill Shuster in the 9th (in the bottom part of Pennsylvania's rural "T"). Shuster's opponent is Art Halvorson, a former Coast Guard officer who is getting support from places like RedState and the Madison Project. Shuster's no stranger to tough primaries, though: After essentially having the seat handed off to him in the middle of the 2001 term by his father, Bud, the younger Shuster barely survived the 2004 primary before becoming entrenched.

The race is pretty emblematic of the larger tension within the GOP. Shuster is, like his dad, an old-school appropriator who traditionally would have been able to hold the seat easily thanks to his ability to route funds into the district, and he's been able to fundraise accordingly. But, unlike before, he faces a Republican primary electorate that's now intent on starving the beast, even though the beast is about the only thing that the district has going for it.

Indeed, if you've ever noticed central Pennsylvania's extensive network of highways despite its general emptiness, that's largely because of the efforts of the two Shusters. But it's also both cause and effect of one of the main components of the local economy: freight mobility. The region relies heavily on warehousing and long-haul trucking because it's centrally located within half a day's drive of all the major East Coast cities. (David Jarman)

Other Races:

Brooklyn DA: Last week, a report emerged saying Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who lost the Democratic primary to challenger Kenneth Thompson earlier this month, might nevertheless try to stay in office by continuing to run on the Republican and Conservative Party lines. While Hynes' name will likely remain on the ballot no matter what, he's once again insisting that he will not "actively run," in the New York Law Journal's phrasing.

Detroit Mayor: A new poll of the Detroit mayor's race, conducted by EPIC-MRA on behalf of the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV, finds former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan crushing Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon 49-25. That's not too far off the margin from Duggan's 52-30 win in last month's top-two primary, which was the subject of a hotly disputed vote count thanks to Duggan's write-in candidacy (and incompetence by local officials).

IN Ballot: Freedom Indiana, the new umbrella group formed to fight an effort to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, has released new polling showing their side with a narrow edge. The survey is from Bellwether Research, which was actually former GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels' pollster, and it finds 48 percent of Hoosiers opposed to the amendment while 45 percent support it. That compares to 50 in favor and 46 against in an April poll Bellwether conducted for another client.

But the numbers are actually more positive for equality supporters than this narrow spread would suggest. That's because when respondents are informed that the amendment "would also ban civil unions and domestic partnership benefits currently provided by many Indiana employers," opposition shoots up to 54 percent, and only 32 percent say they still support the measure. This echoes polling that PPP has conducted over the years, and it suggests that if Freedom Indiana and its allies can educate voters about exactly what this amendment would do, they stand a real chance of stopping it at the ballot box next year.

SD Mayor: With the field all but set, SurveyUSA offers the first poll of the Nov. 19 special election for San Diego mayor. In a kitchen-sink matchup that tested the four biggest names, SUSA finds former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher leading the way with 30, City Councilman Kevin Faulconer at 22, City Councilman David Alvarez at 17, and former City Attorney Mike Aguirre at 9. Activist Bruce Coons takes just 2, and the giant field of Some Dudes scores just 4. Undecideds are already fairly low, at 15.

The election is officially non-partisan, though all but Faulconer are Democrats. A runoff will be required if no candidate reaches 50 percent, which seems likely. SurveyUSA tested a variety of head-to-head matchups, but in the most interesting (and likely) one, Fletcher leads Faulconer 44-30. That may have a lot to do with name recognition, though, since Fletcher finished third in last year's mayoral primary. Things would probably get a lot tighter in an actual runoff between the two.

P.S. The L.A. Times offers an interesting look at how Republican power-brokers rallied around Faulconer and forcibly dissuaded last year's runner-up, former City Councilman Carl DeMaio, from making a second bid. Rather notably, these potentates felt that Faulconer had a "more agreeable personality and reputation as a moderate," while they judged DeMaio "brash and uncompromising" and "more divisive." DeMaio ultimately decided to stick with his challenge to Dem Rep. Scott Peters in CA-52, and Peters has to like the fact that even DeMaio's fellow Republicans don't seem to like him very much.

Grab Bag:

History: Looking for detailed results for the nation's oldest elections? Then you're in luck: Tufts University has an awesome database of America's elections from 1787 to 1825. One of the most interesting entries is the 1789 race in Virginia's 5th Congressional District between future Presidents James Madison and James Monroe. Madison managed to rack up big victories in Culpepper and Louisa counties and utterly dominate in Orange, more than offsetting Monroe's bastion of support in Amherst. Ultimately, Madison prevailed 57-43, or 1,308 votes to 972. Sadly, the Father of the Constitution's victory wasn't enough to prevent Republican Robert Hurt from winning the seat 221 years later.

Another fun historical political resource is the blog The Strangest Names In American Political History, which is… exactly what it sounds like. One notable entry is Shearjashub Bourne, who represented Massachusetts' 5th District in the House from 1791 to 1795. Some of the other many eye-popping names include former Pennsylvania state legislator Hillorious Kester Bender, longtime Mississippi Attorney General Greek Lent Rice, and late nineteenth century Rhode Island politician Eastwood Eastwood. (Darth Jeff)

Winnerspeak: Nathan Gonzales offers a counterpoint to the various forms of political loserspeak he identified a little while back, with "five things that winning candidates say." My favorite is the very first: "I like to ask people for money on the phone six hours a day." Of course, you never actually hear politicians say any of these things out loud, but Gonzales is definitely right that winners evince this kind of attitude. Politics is an unpleasant, nasty business, and if you want to run for office, you'd better be prepared for some rough stuff.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Sep 25, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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