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Leading Off:

NJ-09: Rep. Steve Rothman just put out a statement officially announcing his plans to seek re-election in the redrawn 9th CD, which sets up an incumbent-vs.-incumbent battle in the Democratic primary with Rep. Bill Pascrell. Rothman also released a huge list of endorsements from state legislators, mayors, county executives, and local Democratic chairs. (You can find the complete list at the link.) One notable name: state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who was Jon Corzine's Lt. Gov. running-mate in 2009.

And, trying to fight back against the notion that he's "challenging" Pascrell, Rothman leads off by saying he's running "in the same Ninth Congressional District where he was born and raised and has represented as a Member of Congress since 1997." I think this is a very fair point: Rothman represents more of the new district (54%) than Pascrell does (43%). The only reason why anyone would think it's "Pascrell's district" is because his current home is there while Rothman's is not. But aside from that meaningless detail (Rothman used to live there and undoubtedly will again), if this is anyone's district, it's really Rothman's. This is a bit like the situation in NC-04, which the press has consistently described as David Price's district, even though he and Brad Miller each currently represent about a third of the district's constituents, thus casting Miller as the "challenger." That's just as inaccurate.

In any event, you may be wondering why has Rothman made this choice, when he could have run against GOP Rep. Scott Garrett in the 5th. In terms of his own personal calculus, this move is the better bet. As we noted above, he represents more of the 9th than Pascrell does. Meanwhile, the revised 5th (into which Rothman's Fair Lawn home was moved) is almost entirely Garrett's: He represents 79% of the residents there while Rothman represents only 21%. What's more, Rothmans true base of Englewood (where he served as mayor in the 1980s) is in the 9th—something I'm sure the GOP was aware of when they sprung this trap.

And beyond that, the 9th is a solidly blue district: A win there for Rothman in 2012 probably assures him of the seat for the next decade. (Plus, as Rothman notes in his press release, he currently represents 61% of the registered Democrats in the 9th.) The 5th, on the other hand, would be exceptionally tough sledding for any Dem, and even if Rothman were victorious over Garrett (not a likely outcome), Republicans would be gunning for him every two years.

So you really have to wonder what redistricting tiebreaker John Farmer was thinking when he chose this GOP-authored plan—and when he said "It is in every way an improvement over the previous map." It's so clearly a mashup between Rothman and Garrett in name only, and Republicans knew it. In any event, this now sets off an epic battle between two Democrats who are no pushovers, perhaps making this second only to the Berman-Sherman fight in California. It'll also allow Garrett to skate, and it will create a delegation consisting of six Democrats and six Republicans in a state that voted 57-42 for Barack Obama. This map is an "improvement" only for the GOP.

Senate:

NE-Sen: It's not a huge surprise but still big news: Dem Sen. Ben Nelson said on Tuesday that he would not seek a third term in the Senate. Rather than rehash it all here, you can click the link for our full post analyzing the fallout at Daily Kos Elections.

After Nelson's announcement, chatter inevitably started up regarding possible replacement candidate, as unlikely as a Democratic hold is here. PPP brought up some Nebraska polling they did back in October, where they found ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey with a 39-34 favorability rating. Kerrey didn't completely rule out a bid when asked about the possibility recently, but he sounded very skeptical about the idea. He hasn't run for office in Nebraska since 1994.

Meanwhile, Scott Kleeb, who ran for Senate in 2008 (losing 58-40 to Mike Johanns), immediately said he has no interest in running. Robynn Tysver in the Omaha World-Herald mentions state Sen. Steve Lathrop and former Lt. Gov. Kim Robak as potential Dems, while a piece from a couple of weeks ago by Don Walton in the Lincoln Journal Star suggested Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler and activist Jane Kleeb, wife of Scott. And two more possibilities, from former state Sen. Bob Giese: state Sens. Heath Mello and Bill Avery.

In addition to the three main Republicans running—Attorney General Jon Bruning, state Treasurer Don Stenberg and state Sen. Deb Fischer—Walton also suggests 1st CD Rep. Jeff Fortenberry could step in with Nelson out. Gov. Dave Heineman and banker Sid Dinsdale have also been considering the race, though the latter looks much more likely than the former. Finally, the crazy idea of the day, courtesy David Jarman: Could former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel, considered an apostate by many in his own party, switch sides and seek the Democratic line?

NE-Sen: This shouldn't be considered an endorsement of Democratic ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey (if anything, it points to a flaw in DW/Nominate scores, in that they only measure how you vote and not the things you say as a talking head), but check out the ideological disparity between Ben Nelson and his predecessor/potential successor. DW/N scores, which are designed to eliminate apples-to-oranges comparison by being generalizable from cycle to cycle, range from approximately 1 to -1, with -1 being most liberal:

111th Congress: Nelson -.021
110th: Nelson -.036
109th: Nelson -.051
108th: Nelson -.066
107th: Nelson -.081
106th: Kerrey -.268
105th: Kerrey -.272
104th: Kerrey -.276
103rd: Kerrey -.280
102nd: Kerrey -.284
101st: Kerrey -.288

(David Jarman)

PA-Sen: Former coal company owner Tom Smith, showing an exquisite sense of timing, just released an internal poll of the GOP primary—sure to get as few eyeballs as possible during the week between Christmas and New Year's. In any event, the survey, from McLaughlin & Associates, unsurprisingly shows Smith leading:

Smith, 22 percent; former State Rep. Sam Rohrer, 15 percent; businessman and 2010 congressional candidate Tim Burns, 11 percent; entrepreneur and 2010 congressional candidate Steve Welch, 10 percent; and attorney Marc Scaringi, 4 percent. 38 percent were undecided.

WI-Sen: This is interesting: Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is trying to shore up his weak conservative credentials by going after ex-Rep. Mark Neumann for attacks he made against now-Gov. Scott Walker last year, when Neumann was in the midst of a primary battle for the gubernatorial nomination against Walker. Ironically enough, one of Neumann's tweets from that campaign (highlighted in a Thompson email) questioned Walker's right-wing cred, declaring Neumann to be the "only fiscal conservative" in the race. But, you know, it's an email about a tweet… not exactly a lot of muscle behind this one.

Gubernatorial:

VT-Gov: It's an odd detail you may not be aware of: Vermont's constitution requires candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to secure a majority—not merely a plurality—of the vote in order to win election. If they don't, then the race gets thrown to the legislature to decide. This actually happened last year, when Democrat Peter Shumlin got only 49.5% in the governor's race and Republican Phil Scott scored 49.4% in the LG contest. In both cases, their opponents conceded, so the legislature's approval was a mere formality, but obviously it could conceivably lead to mischief. And that's why legislators are proposing an amendment that would move Vermont to a normal first-past-the-post system, and which would also extend terms for state elected officials from two years to four. (New Hampshire is the only other state with two-year terms.) The procedure for actually changing the constitution is slow and difficult, though, so these changes may not come to pass any time soon. Shumlin himself supports the amendment, but he doesn't actually get a say in the matter.

House:

CA-21: Major bummer: State Sen. Michael Rubio, who announced plans to run for the incumbent-less 21st CD back in August, is backing out of the race. (He recently had a new baby who born with Down's syndrome.) This is a very swing district (Obama 52%), and the GOP has what looks to be a strong candidate in the form of Assemblyman David Valadao. Fortunately, Democrats do have a possible Plan B: Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez is still considering the race and hopefully will get in.

OH-16: Looks like we missed this about ten days ago, buried as it is in the 18th paragraph: Dem ex-Rep. John Boccieri will not be making a comeback for Congress this cycle. He'd been holding the door open as recently as last month, but now he's saying no—which makes sense, given that Dem Rep. Betty Sutton has since decided to seek re-election in the 16th, running against the guy who beat Boccieri last year, GOP freshman Jim Renacci. There was also a possibility that Boccieri might run against Republican Bob Gibbs, seeing as ex-Rep. Zack Space (who lost to Gibbs in 2010) recently took a job with a consulting firm instead of opting for a comeback bid of his own, but alas, that's not to be either.

Grab Bag:

Illinois: After a whole bunch of date shuffling by several states with early primaries, Illinois wound up with the first congressional filing deadline in the nation—yesterday. (Ohio is next up, on Friday.) You can find a continually updated list of all candidate filings here. Benawu also has a diary analyzing the filings so far.

Virginia: Earlier this month, PPP included an interesting new demographic question with its Virginia poll: They asked whether respondents consider themselves "to be a Southerner." Sixty-six percent said yes while 34% said no. As you'd imagine, the latter group feels much more warmly about Democrats than the former, and growth in that population is what's made the state competitive. I mention all this because Tom Jensen was kind enough to provide us with the raw responses to this query, which we've mapped according to area code. The results by-and-large make sense—folks in the DC 'burbs are least likely to identify as Southerners, those in the southwestern corner of the state the most likely—but are compelling nonetheless:

Redistricting Roundup:

CT Redistricting: Siding with the GOP, Connecticut's Supreme Court has decided to appoint a special master to draw a congressional map for the state. I don't think this is a major win for Republicans, but under the same circumstances back in 1971, the court chose none other than Robert Bork, who was then a professor at Yale Law, as its special master. Hopefully we'll get someone a little less insanely conservative this time! In any event, the special master's report will be due on Jan. 27, at which point the parties will be able to file objections, if any.

PA Redistricting: Late last week (on Thursday, Dec. 22), GOP Gov. Tom Corbett signed Pennsylvania's new congressional redistricting plan into law. Since there aren't really any possible avenues for legal challenges, this means the map is final.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Dec 28, 2011 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by These Green Mountains and Daily Kos.

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