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Leading Off:

Texas: The Lone Star State held its primaries on Tuesday night—making it the first state to do so this cycle—yielding a batch of mostly predictable results along with a couple of eyebrow-raisers that won't get resolved until the May 27 runoff. Ballot counting proved to be a slow affair, with under a third of precincts reporting when we put the Digest to bed. There weren't too many mysteries left, though, so here's a wrap-up of all the major action so far:

TX-Sen (R & D): On the GOP side, Sen. John Cornyn easily held off lunatic Rep. Steve Stockman, who evidently decided to commit suicide by primary. For Democrats, wealthy dentist David Alameel was flirting with an outright win, though he was in need of a late push to sneak back past the 50 percent mark. If there's a runoff, he might even wind up facing attorney Maxey Scherr instead of LaRouchie nightmare Kesha Rogers, who traded places for the second spot throughout the night.

TX-LG (R): Oof. Incumbent David Dewhurst was getting smoked by state Sen. Dan Patrick. A runoff is probable, but the last time Dewhurst faced one, he got blasted by Ted Cruz. This one looks even more deadly for him. The winner will be the heavy favorite over Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the fall.

TX-04 (R): Nonagenarian Rep. Ralph Hall is headed to a runoff with former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe. The winner is a lock in November.

TX-23 (R): Ex-Rep. Quico Canseco and former CIA agent Will Hurd will likely square off in a second round for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego in Texas' only swing district.

TX-30 (D): Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson once again defeated ex-state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway by a wide margin. This district is solidly blue.

TX-32 (R): Tea partier Katrina Pierson got zero traction against Rep. Pete Sessions, who will win another term in this safely Republican (albeit blue-trending) seat.

TX-33 (D): Freshman Rep. Marc Veasey easily turned back self-funding attorney Tom Sanchez and will cruise to re-election in November.

TX-36 (R): Dentist Brian Babin and businessman Ben Streusand, the only two candidates to raise any real money, will meet in the runoff for Stockman's open seat, which is solidly red.


MN-Sen: The Senate portion of that new SurveyUSA poll of Minnesota that had Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton looking solid for re-election also finds Democratic Sen. Al Franken in good shape, too. Franken leads all of his potential GOP rivals by anywhere from 8 to 14 points:

49-41 vs. state Sen. Julianne Ortman

49-41 vs. St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg

50-40 vs. businessman Mike McFadden

49-37 vs. state Rep. Jim Abeler

50-36 vs. Some Dude Monti Moreno

This is yet another one of those under-polled races; in fact, the only remotely recent survey came last October, from PPP. Those numbers were almost identical to these, though, with very similar spreads and Franken at or kissing 50 in every matchup. The incumbent continues to look well-situated, which is why Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race as Likely Democratic.

SUSA didn't ask about the GOP primary, but given how little-known all of these candidates are, there isn't much to see. That's confirmed by a new poll on behalf of Citizens United from The Polling Company. The survey shows Ortman leading with a mere 16 percent, while Abeler and McFadden take 8 apiece and Dahlberg just 4. It's not clear whether Citizens United has actually endorsed Ortman, but the memo is written to be as friendly as possible to her. From the looks of the general election toplines, though, it doesn't seem to matter much which Republican faces Franken.


AZ-Gov: It looks like a whole lot of Arizona voters are really determined not to make up their minds yet for this fall's open seat race for governor. What little polling we've seen so far has all shown high numbers of undecideds, including a Monday internal from likely Democratic nominee Fred DuVal. PPP doesn't typically follow this pattern, but their new survey is little different from the rest of the pack. DuVal is little known, with a favorability rating of just 13-14, but the same is true of the entire GOP field. Here's how DuVal fares against his Republican opponents, with their favorables in parentheses:

33-39 vs. Mesa Mayor Scott Smith (15-13)

33-37 vs. Secretary of State Ken Bennett (12-24)

36-35 vs. state Treasurer Doug Ducey (11-20)

35-32 vs. physician John Molina (7-12)

36-32 vs. former California U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs (5-13)

37-33 vs. former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones (9-15)

37-32 vs. state Sen. Al Melvin (4-22)

40-35 vs. former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas (13-29)

While the whole race trades in a narrow band, as Wall Street types might say, the matchups on the edges make sense. DuVal's toughest opponent is Smith, who has a reputation as something of a moderate for his stances on immigration and guns. His weakest, meanwhile, is Thomas, who was disbarred in 2012 for some pretty extreme ethics violations.

But what makes for a more electable candidate in a general election usually has the opposite effect in a GOP primary, and vice versa. Luckily for someone like Smith, the field is incredibly jam-packed, and the race for the Republican nomination, as you'd expect, has barely taken shape:

Bennett: 20
Jones: 16
Smith: 12
Thomas: 9
Ducey: 6
Melvin: 1
Molina: 1
Riggs: 1
Undecided: 34
It's very possible that the ultimate winner could prevail with a relatively small plurality. But regardless of who emerges as the GOP nominee, the general election numbers show that there's a real chance for this contest to become very competitive. Thanks to Arizona's reddish demographics and expected mid-term falloff for Democrats, Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race as Lean Republican. But it's received little national attention so far and could wind up as a serious sleeper.

CT-Gov: Here's yet another Quinnipiac poll where an incumbent governor's job approval ratings are higher than his vote share in head-to-head matchups. In this case, it's Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy of Connecticut, who sports a 48-45 approval score, little changed from his 47-47 mark last June. Here's how he fares against the GOP field (with trendlines in parentheses):

42-42 vs. 2010 nominee Tom Foley (40-43)

44-35 vs. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton (43-36)

43-37 vs. state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (44-37)

44-34 vs. Mark Lauretti

45-34 vs. Toni Boucher

Obviously these numbers aren't good for Malloy, but the problem is that the only other poll all cycle has been from... Quinnipiac. Indeed, Public Policy Polling recently said they "don't have any plans" to go into the state, which means it could be a while before we get any results we can compare these to.

LA-Gov: According to unnamed sources who spoke to news site LaPolitics, wealthy Democratic businessman Jim Bernhard is "strongly considering" a bid for governor next year. Bernhard could tap his considerable bank account to self-fund a campaign against GOP frontrunner David Vitter, but he also declined a challenge Vitter for Senate in 2010, so who knows if he'll follow through this time. And a couple of Democrats have already said they plan to run, including state House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell.


CA-35: While it may seem like state Sen. Norma Torres is on a glide path to succeed Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod in Congress, she does have some minor league competition from a fellow Democratic elected official, Ontario City Councilman Paul Avila. Avila, however, is not much of a force. He ran in a couple of special elections last year and did terribly, including the race where Torres won election to the state Senate, taking just 3 percent and finishing sixth out of six candidates.

Meanwhile, the National Journal's Scott Bland takes a look at members of Congress who, like Negrete McLeod, have opted to ditch the House in favor of lower-profile elective opportunities. McLeod was pretty explicit in saying that Congress is "just really not the place for me," but she's not the only one. Bland catalogs some other notable examples, both recent and more distant.

CO-04: With sophomore Rep. Cory Gardner making his unexpected Senate bid official over the weekend, the reward for Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck's obeisance is proving meager indeed. Buck rather infamously dropped down from the Senate contest to run for Gardner's House seat as part of the duo's backroom switcheroo, but he already has plenty of company in the GOP primary for this safely red district.

For starters, state Sen. Scott Renfroe quickly moved from "thinking about it" to actually running, and he's now joined by Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and former Cranston, Rhode Island Mayor Steve Laffey (who very briefly ran for governor last year). State Reps. Frank McNulty, Tim Dore, and Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff are also considering bids.

Two notable Republicans have said no, however: Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway and state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg.

FL-19: Ex-Rep. Connie Mack ultimately declined a comeback bid after Trey Radel's political career got snowed under, but he's still making his presence felt in the upcoming special election: Mack just endorsed businessman Curt Clawson in the GOP primary.

NY-11: New York's Independence Party, a faux political party with an appealing name that simply sells itself out to the highest bidder, has once again endorsed GOP Rep. Mike Grimm for re-election. Let's see if it sticks, though: Last cycle, the IP also gave its line to Grimm but failed to file enough signatures to get him on the ballot. That's the hallmark of a non-serious organization if there ever was one.

Grab Bag:

Arkansas: Filing closed Monday for Natural State's May 20 primary. In races where no one clears 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held June 10. The state has a complete candidate list available.

In the race to succeed termed out Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, there's not much suspense about who each party will nominate. Former Rep. Mike Ross faces only token opposition in the Democratic primary; former Rep. (and 2006 gubernatorial nominee) Asa Hutchinson should have no difficulty prevailing against businessman and 2010 Senate also-ran Curtis Coleman. The general will be a lot more exciting: Daily Kos Elections rates the contest as a Tossup.

It's a similar story for Senate. Incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor and his Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, are both unopposed in their primaries. Daily Kos Elections also rates the general election as a Tossup.

Three Republicans are competing to succeed former Lt. Gov Mark Darr, who recently resigned due to an ethics scandal. The best known is Tim Griffin, a congressman who made the unusual career decision to retire from the House after just two terms, only to later decide to run for this position (after Darr quit). Griffin will face state Reps. Debra Hobbs and Andy Mayberry in the primary. The winner will face Democratic State Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter.

On the Republican side, there are contested primaries for attorney general, state auditor, and state treasurer. Only one Democrat is running in each of these races. Republican incumbents for secretary of state and land commissioner face no primary opposition, and neither do their Democratic challengers.

Griffith and Cotton are leaving their House seats open, and there will be competitive Republican primaries to replace them. In the Little Rock-area 2nd District, banker French Hill faces state Rep. Ann Clemmer and veteran Conrad Reynolds. The winner will take on Democratic former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays in a race we rate as Lean Republican. In southern Arkansas' 4th District, energy executive Tommy Moll faces state House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman. The winner will face Democrat and former FEMA head James Lee Witt in a contest we rate as Likely Republican. (Jeff Singer)

Nebraska: The second of the Cornhusker State's two filing deadlines passed on Monday. Back in mid-February, all incumbent elected officials running for any office in 2014 were required to file, while Monday's deadline was for everyone else. The primary will be held May 13, and the state has a complete list of candidate filings.

We rounded up who was running for governor and Senate back in February and there have not been any new developments since then. In both contests, the only new names to file were people who had already declared their candidacies. Both races will pit numerous Republicans against one other, while only one credible Democrat is running in each case. Daily Kos Elections rates the gubernatorial contest as Likely Republican and the Senate race as Safe Republican.

There are a few new names for downballot statewide offices. In the attorney general's contest, attorney Doug Peterson and state Sen. Pete Pirsch are joined by former Douglas County GOP chair Brian Buescher and attorney Mike Hilgers in the GOP primary. Two Democrats, Allen Eurek and Janet Stewart, are running here. In the auditor's race, Republican state Sen. Charlie Janssen is joined by Larry Anderson, a staffer for incumbent Auditor Mike Foley, in the primary. The winner will face Democratic state Sen. Amanda McGill. State Treasurer and frequent Senate candidate Don Stenberg has a Republican primary foe; former Omaha Public Power District Director Michael O'Hara is running for the Democrats. Finally, Republican Secretary of State John Gale will only be challenged by a Libertarian.

There aren't any notable new names in the race for any of the state's three House seats. Only 2nd District GOP Rep. Lee Terry faces any serious general election opposition, with state Sen. Brad Ashford, a Republican turned Democrat, set to oppose him. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican. (Jeff Singer)

Senate: In Tuesday's installment in the World of Weird Polling, the Washington Post and ABC have released a national survey with a generic House ballot showing Democrats ahead one point... but also with a strange subsample of states with a Senate race. That leads to a "generic Senate ballot" with an 8-point Republican lead. (Guess which number the legacy media chose to lead with?)

A big problem, though, leaps out right away: That spread leans heavily on Texas. Many of the other biggest states (California, New York, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, all of which Obama carried in 2012) have no Senate race whatsoever. ABC does acknowledge that Texas comprises a hefty 15 percent of the sample—as well it should, since Texas comprises 16 percent of the total population of the 34 states with Senate races this year). However, ABC also points out that if you take out Texas, there's still a 6-point Republican edge in the remaining states.

But that doesn't have anything to do with a huge wave building as it simply does with the fact that the Senate's Class II is up for election this year. The states that make up Class II comprise the most GOP-leaning of the Senate's three classes, regardless of this year's conditions. Indeed, Mitt Romney carried the states with Senate races this year by about 2 percent (34.1 million votes to 32.8 million for Obama). So, while this is kind of a useless poll on its face in terms of predicting actual individual outcomes, it does underscore the simple structural problems that Democrats face in the Senate landscape this fall before even considering national trends. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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