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A few new data points to peruse, a bipartisan rush to the exits, and more political trauma for one of the most embattled pols in America. Welcome to Wednesday night at the Wrap.....

THE U.S. SENATE

IN-Sen: Dan Coats Is Offically In, And Officially Getting Blasted
The exploratory period for former Republican Senator Dan Coats was a short one, as he made it official today that he will be challenging incumbent Democrat Evan Bayh this Fall. Apparently, Coats was not dissuaded by his disastrous rollout, which was the topic of an interesting piece in Politico entitled "The Nuking of Dan Coats." Apparently, Dems might have learned their Scott Brown lesson, and are defining opponents with a little more fervor from this point forward (although Jed Lewison made an excellent point about the beneficiary of this tactic, Senator Bayh, earlier today).

NH-Sen: New Primary Poll Paints Intriguing Granite State Picture
Yesterday, Laura Clawson hit the DK front page with the latest poll from UNH from the Granite State. The quick recap: the House races look a little daunting for Democrats, and Paul Hodes should hope for a Binnie or Lamontagne nomination for the Senate. According to a new GOP primary poll by Magellan Research, that might happen. Establishment GOP pick Kelly Ayotte leads the field, but with only 37% of the vote. In a bit of a departure from other polls, free-spending businessman Bill Binnie runs second at 23%, with Ovide Lamontagne a distant third at 12%.

PA-Sen: Rasmussen Returns To Keystone State With Poll
The Ras-a-Palooza has cooled off a bit this week, with the main headlines from the prolific pollster coming from the state of Pennsylvania. Ras polls the Democratic Primary, and finds incumbent Senator Arlen Specter with a fifteen-point lead over Congressman Joe Sestak (51-36). They also have general election data against likely GOP nominee Patrick Toomey, and they find Joe Sestak doing incrementally better than Senator Specter. Both trail Toomey, according to Rasmussen, but Specter (47-38) is a little further behind than Sestak (43-35).

SC-Sen: Primary Democratic Challenger Stands Down Against DeMint
This has to qualify as a slight disappointment for Democrats, their most well-funded challenger for far-right Senator Jim DeMint decided to reverse course and not seek the U.S. Senate seat in 2010. Chad McGowan, a thirty-something attorney, cited the "more time with the family" rationale for leaving the race. He had raised only around a quarter million in several months in the race.

THE U.S. HOUSE

AL-05: Suddenly, A Flood of Democrats To Challenge New GOPer
For over a month after his sudden party switch, nouveau Republican Parker Griffith was getting sweated a great deal more by his new party than his old one, as Democratic challengers were scarce. That ended this week, with a trio of Democratic hopefuls making their intentions known. Along with Huntsville attorney Mitchell Howie and former Hill staffer Steve Raby, Huntsville attorney Taze Shepard jumped into the race today. Of course, it is worth remembering that Griffith is hardly a lock to be the GOP nominee, as he is being challenged vigorously by a pair of Republicans: Les Phillip and Mo Brooks.

CA-32 CA-33: Democrats Lose An Incumbent To Retirement
As Dante Atkins (who got the scoop from a diarist over at the Swing State Project) reported this weekend, Diane Watson will end her long public-service career at the end of this term. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, and will be decided in the June primaries, in all likelihood. An early name being floated is former state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass.

MI-03: Republicans Lose An Incumbent, As Well...
Another seventy-something incumbent is headed for the exits at the end of this term. Vern Ehlers, first elected in 1993, announced his retirement yesterday. The district went 49-49 during the Obama-McCain election, but has been solidly GOP in other presidential elections as of late. Ehlers might have been shoved, however: the day before he went to the exits, twenty-something state legislator Justin Amash had announced a primary challenge. With Ehlers on the sidelines, the field is liable to mushroom. Among the GOPers named include Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, while Democrats might look at longtime state legislator Mike Sak.

THE GUBERNATORIAL RACES

AL-Gov: Byrne The Early Leader In Crowded GOP Primary
In an interesting early season poll of the Alabama primary by Baselice And Associates, Bradley Byrne has the early lead (20-17) over "Ten Commandments" judge Roy Moore. The rest of the field is way back in the single digits. This has to be good news for Byrne, since Moore has to have close to nearly universal name recognition in the state. Interestingly, state treasurer Kay Ivey is way back in the field at 3%, despite being a statewide elected official.

MI-Gov: Potential First-Tier Dem Declines Gubernatorial Bid
This one has to qualify as a bit of a surprise: Denise Ilitch, a UM regent and member of one of Detroit's most well-known and well-connected families, declined to run for Governor of Michigan, citing the demands of a compressed campaign schedule. Ilitch had been courted by Dems, including a brief lobbying effort by the White House. This announcement leaves Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and state House Speaker Andy Dillon as the two top-tier Dems in the field.

NY-Gov: The Paterson Saga Continues Unabated
When you are already circling the polling drain, a series of news cycles like the ones that have been suffered by New York Governor David Paterson (D) cannot be helpful. The latest revelation (furiously denied, for what it's worth, by Team Paterson) is that the Governor awarded a lucrative contract for a gaming center at a horse track with political motives in mind. Paterson remains in a feisty defensive posture, going so far as to plead his case on Don Imus' program earlier today.

OR-Gov: Dean Makes A House Call in Competitive Gov's Race
This one is pretty intriguing: Bill Bradbury, the former Secretary of State who is challenging former Governor John Kitzhaber, got a high-profile assist Wednesday from former DNC Chair Howard Dean. One might expect a certain kinship between Dean and Kitzhaber, both governors and physicians. One would be wrong: Dean proclaimed Bradbury as "the only progressive candidate...who has an opportunity to win." There could also be some score-settling here: Bradbury endorsed Dean in the former Vermont Governor's 2004 presidential bid, while Kitzhaber very noticeably stood on the sidelines.

TX-Gov: Two New Polls Out of The Lone Star State
As the clock now comes down to less than three weeks until the primaries in Texas, there is new data in both the primary and general elections. One day after PPP polled the primary, they are followed by a new poll sponsored by the Texas Credit Union League (and executed by a pair of pollsters, one Democratic and one Republican). In this poll, incumbent Rick Perry comes awfully close to winning without a runoff, leading with 49% of the vote. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is well behind at 27%, with teabagger Debra Medina at 19%. On the Democratic side, it is a White-wash, with former Houston Mayor Bill White blasting hair care magnate Farouk Shami (51-19).

In the general election, PPP follows their primary poll with new nums on the general election. The race against likely Democratic nominee Bill White is surprisingly competitive (PDF file), with incumbent Rick Perry leading White by just six points (48-42). Interestingly, all three GOPers perform similarly against White, with all three holding leads of six or seven points.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Feb 10, 2010 at 07:40 PM PST.

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