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Leading Off:

CO-Gov: We finally have our long-desired PPP poll of Colorado, and the numbers are a bit better for Democrats than Quinnipiac recently found, albeit not awesome. To offer the clearest comparison, we've put together charts of both polls, along with PPP's April trendlines, to best show Gov. John Hickenlooper matches up with his Republican opposition:

As you can see, Hickenlooper leads all comers, though strangely, he only takes 44 percent and is up just a point against utterly unknown state Sen. Greg Brophy. Pollster Tom Jensen intimates that the better known Republicans become, the worse they do, and there's certainly precedent for that. (See: Giuliani, Rudy.) But former state Sen. Mike Kopp is just as obscure yet somehow he does 7 net points worse. I can't really figure it.

More important, though, are those April trendlines. Yes, it's a long time ago, but that's exactly the point. In the first part of the year, Colorado Republicans (Secretary of State Scott Gessler among them) were reluctant to even speak ill of Hickenlooper. Since then, Democratic fortunes have gone south, which many have attributed to alleged liberal over-reach by the legislature. The GOP steadily grew emboldened, even more so following their success in two recall elections in September. And Hick's job approval has indeed declined, from 53-44 then to 45-48 now, while Barack Obama's has fallen similarly (48-50 to 43-54).

But despite this, the roof hasn't caved in. In fact, in the horserace head-to-heads, Hick has dropped all of 3 points against his two likeliest opponents. The reality is that despite the struggles of Colorado Democrats, and despite the dark shadow cast by the screwed-up Obamacare rollout, Republicans still aren't popular. Just compare the HuffPo Pollster averages of Democratic Party favorability (sucky) versus Republican Party favorability (disastrous). Many pundits lately have enjoyed talking about the headwinds Democrats face, but it's important to remember that the GOP isn't starting in a good place.

And they could wind up in an even worse place, if Republican voters nominate Tom Tancredo, which they very well may. Right now, the polarizing, anti-immigrant zealot leads in the primary with 34 percent, with the establishment choice Gessler at 15, Brophy at 9, and Kopp at just 3. As you can see from the general election matchups, Tancredo performs the worst, sending the incumbent to his highest totals. Hickenlooper beat Tancredo (running as a third-party candidate) in 2010, and undoubtedly, he'd like to face him again. If that happens, Republican hopes of capitalizing on Democratic woes would take a serious blow.

Senate:

CO-Sen: PPP also has Senate numbers as part of their new Colorado poll, and as with the gubernatorial portion, they're somewhat better for Democratic Sen. Mark Udall than Quinnipiac's, but they're not terrific. Udall is still beating the entire GOP field, but this race looks more competitive than it did earlier in the year:

PPP's April poll didn't test any of these Republican candidates, but back then, Udall led by double digits in almost all of his matchups. Interestingly, Udall's approvals have fallen even more precipitously than Gov. John Hickenlooper's (or Barack Obama's), from 50-33 in April to just 40-41 now, so his decline in the head-to-heads is only expected. But can Buck actually claw his way past the incumbent to the 50 percent mark? It's worth noting that in 2010, he couldn't seal the deal against appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, despite that year's mighty GOP wave. Would 2014 be different against the better-equipped Udall?

And a Udall-Buck pairing certainly seems likely. Despite Buck's earlier failure, he holds a big lead in the Republican primary, taking 45 percent of the vote. Baumgardner's a distant second with 8, while Stephens takes 7 and Hill just 2. But Buck has a weak 19-32 favorability rating, and while he's not as flawed as Tancredo, he's far from ideal. Democrats are certainly going to have to fight a lot harder to hang on to their gains in Colorado than they probably expected to a year ago, but they still retain the advantage, with a possible assist from the GOP.

MS-Sen: As first reported by Nathan Gonzales, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran has, a bit unexpectedly, decided to seek a seventh term. Cochran, who just turned 76, had taken a long time to make up his mind, and in the interim, he drew a primary challenge from fellow Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel. A recent PPP poll showed Cochran clinging to a small 44-38 lead against his lesser-known opponent, a dicey set of numbers that would have given him ample reason to retire.

But once more unto the breach he rides, setting up yet another classic internal GOP battle between a traditional establishment pork barreler in Cochran and a conservative tea party purist in McDaniel. Does Cochran have polling data that differ sharply from PPP's? Opposition research that he thinks will tank McDaniel? Or is he simply stubborn and prefers to take his chances on one last fight? Cochran hasn't faced a serious challenge since 1984 and his fundraising has been anemic this year, so he may be very rusty indeed.

It's also not inconceivable that other ambitious Mississippi Republicans could get into the race, since the alternative would be to wait another six years for a seat that might not even be open, should McDaniel win. But that could actually help Cochran, if multiple candidates split the anti-incumbent vote—though he'd still potentially have to face a runoff. In any event, the primary is now just seven months away, on June 3. If anyone else wants to run, time's a-wastin', and it's already game on.

Gubernatorial:

TX-Gov: In case anyone remembered that Tom Pauken was running in the Republican primary for governor, now you don't have to, since Pauken's out. This affects state Attorney General Greg Abbott's campaign for the GOP nomination... not at all.

House:

FL-02: What on earth was prospective Democratic candidate Al Lawson doing yukking it up at a press conference where a local prosecutor announced that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston would not be charged with rape?

FL-13: Following lobbyist David Jolly by a day, state Rep. Kathleen Peters is now up with her own ad, too—and she goes right at her fellow Republican. Says Peters: "The choice is clear: a Washington lobbyist who has put his special interest clients first—or a local community leader who has put Pinellas families first." And for a guy whose ties to the district are at issue, it doesn't help that parts of his ad were apparently filmed outside of the 13th. (I guess he has a bit of a Rob Cornilles problem.)

The size of Peters' buy is an unimpressive $22,000, though that's a bit bigger than Jolly's, which the industrious Abby Livingston has revised upward to $15,000. Both spots are airing for just a week.

HI-01: Oh no, not Mufi! It's only just "chatter," but Honolulu Civil Beat's Chad Blair says there's a chance that former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann could run for Congress again, this time for Hawaii's open 1st District. The notoriously conservative Hannemann, who at last count still opposes same-sex marriage, was on the wrong side of a shocking upset in the 2nd District Democratic primary last year at the hands of Tulsi Gabbard. A cycle earlier, he lost the gubernatorial nomination to now-Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Given the large and slow-to-develop field this time, Hannemann might stand a better chance. But weirdly, the most prominent Democrat in the race is also anti-gay marriage, state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, so if there's a "reactionary vote," she and Mufi might just split it. Hawaii primaries are often strange, inscrutable affairs, so there's no telling how this one might ultimately resolve itself. In 2006, when HI-02 was open, now-Sen. Mazie Hirono won the Democratic nomination with just 22 percent. Something like that could very well happen again here.

NY-13: According to the Columbia Spectator, the student-run paper at Columbia University, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat will once again challenge Rep. Charlie Rangel. In last year's Democratic primary, Espaillat nearly unseated the incumbent, losing by a narrow 44-42 margin. Rangel, 83, still hasn't made up his mind about seeking another term, and he refuted a recent report that said he'd decided to run again. But whether he does or doesn't, Espaillat has a very good chance of winning.

Other Races:

VA State Senate: Gov. Bob McDonnell has scheduled the special election to fill Lt. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam's state Senate seat for Jan. 7. Democratic Delegate Lynwood Lewis is facing off against Republican shipping executive Wayne Coleman, in a race that could give the GOP outright control of the evenly-divided chamber.

Grab Bag:

Maps: The Brookings Institute is out with a new interactive map that draws attention to about as dry a topic as you could think of—property taxes—and yet still manages to be fascinating. It's a county-by-county map, so it accounts for the wide variations in property taxes and property values not just state-to-state but place-to-place. The map (based on 2007-11 American Community Survey data) starts you out with a look at average property tax bills; you can see all sorts of correlations happening at the county level, as the size of the bills ties in with house values, which in turn ties in with household income, education, and so on.

However, switch over to "Property tax as a share of home value," and you have a totally different map, one which shows how heavily reliant each state is on property taxes as part of its three-legged tax stool (or two-legged, in those freak states without income or sales taxes... or one-legged, in New Hampshire's case, which doesn't have either). Not only do you see how heavily NH relies on property taxes, but also how much Texas relies on them compared with its southern neighbors, or how little Indiana relies on them compared with its Midwestern brethren.

Interestingly, the Deep South and Appalachian states are still low even when you switch to the percentage model rather than the one based on house values. Since many of those states also have low income taxes, you have to wonder how they manage to keep the lights on—and lo and behold, those are also many of the same red states you'll recognize from the list of states that take in more money from the federal government than they put back in. That goes for some of the blue states too; note how New Mexico and Virginia are net federal-dollar beneficiaries, and have much lower-than-average property tax rates too. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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