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Leading Off:

IN-Sen: Aww yeah, boyee! It is ON! After dancing around the race since last April, the radical right-wing purists at the Club for Growth are finally jumping in to the Indiana Senate contest with a full-blown endorsement of Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who is hoping to unseat Sen. Dick Lugar in the GOP primary. The CfG has conducted some polling here and even thrown down for a few ad buys hitting Lugar for his conservative apostasies on a couple of occasions, but now they're poised to be a real difference-maker. Mourdock has trailed Lugar in fundraising, but that disadvantage can be wiped out overnight with just a single independent expenditure by the Club.

Of course, when Republicans decide to tear the lid off a tin of cat fud, it's Democrats who reap the rewards. Dem Rep. Joe Donnelly, who has been doggedly running for Senate since last May, would undoubtedly fare much better against an extremist like Mourdock who lacks Lugar's centrist credentials and well-known public profile. And even if Mourdock can't pull off the nomination, he and the Club could do a lot of damage to Lugar before primary day. Enough for Donnelly to pull off an upset? A tall order, for sure, but it's hard to see the CfG's entry as anything but a good thing for Team Blue. What's more, if the Club spends in its usual drunken-sailor mode, the NRSC may have to step in to prop up Lugar, something I'm sure they don't want to have to do. So yeah, I'm liking this news a whole lot.


FL-Sen: I wouldn't have thought anyone would want an endorsement from the extremely ethically-challenged David Rivera, but the freshman Republican is throwing his support to fellow Rep. Connie Mack as he seeks the GOP Senate nod. Three other prominent South Florida Cuban Republicans also did the same: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, as well as ex-Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario's brother. Given how well Mack is cleaning up in the GOP primary, though, I'm not sure whether endorsements like this even matter very much—except perhaps to make George LeMieux sigh and have to convince himself yet again not to give up.

FL-Sen: In their second Senate poll in a week (are they finally stepping up production?), Rasmussen manages to find a tie game between Dem Sen. Bill Nelson and GOP Rep. Connie Mack down in Florida. Rather amusingly, that's actually an improvement for Nelson from their November poll, which had Mack up 43-39. (There are also pairings with the lesser Republican candidates if you're curious.)

MA-Sen: A new poll from MassInc shows Democrat Elizabeth Warren taking the lead from Scott Brown, a big change from their last survey all the way back in August. Of course, the race has changed a great deal since then, and as David Jarman says in our full post analyzing the numbers, "with Ben Nelson out of the picture, it's hard not to view Brown as the Senate's most endangered incumbent now."

MI-Sen: It's always nice when the bad guys lose: PPP's new, perfectly-timed Michigan poll finds that Republican ex-Rep. Pete Hoekstra has indeed suffered with voters for his racist new "Debbie Spend-it-now" ad. Click through for the full numbers and our analysis at Daily Kos Elections.

MN-Sen: Another day, another Minnesota poll showing Dem Sen. Amy Klobuchar whomping the daylights out of her D-list opposition. These new numbers from SurveyUSA are barely any different than those we saw back in November: Klobuchar leads virtual Some Dudes Joe Arwood and Dan Severson by 59-28 and 56-29 respectively.

PA-Sen: So close! A new Susquehanna poll of the Pennsylvania GOP Senate field finds an impressive 72% of likely voters undecided—but that's still one point shy of what I'm regarding as the recent high of 73% unsure found by PPP in their MO-Sen Republican primary poll. So yeah, it's a lulzy poll, but I mention it because businessman Steven Welch, fresh off endorsements from Gov. Tom Corbett and the state party, plus the departure of fellow rich guy Tim Burns from the race, is still at a truly comical 2%. How do numbers like that make you not want to just throw in the towel? The primary, by the way, is theoretically coming up on April 24, but with the Keystone State's redistricting situation such a mess, that date may be in jeopardy.


NH-Gov: Yet one more establishment-type Republican is deciding against the governor's race: State Board of Education Chair John Lyons says he won't run. Just a day earlier, 2010 nominee John Stephen said he wouldn't make the race either.

WA-Gov (PDF): A new poll from Elway Research gives Republican AG Rob McKenna a 45-36 lead over Dem Rep. Jay Inslee, the widest lead McKenna's seen in any polling in quite some time. Elway's methods are a little unusual, though, seeing as they ask respondents "how they are inclined to vote for governor," and they reach these numbers by combining the responses of those who say they "definitely" will and "probably" will. There also aren't any clear trendlines, since Elway's last poll (from all the way back in June) featured a kitchen-sink topline question that included eight different candidates—but only two are actually in the race.

One related note: In his writeup of the Elway Poll, Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times says that unnamed "Democratic operatives" are trying to push Inslee to resign from the House so that he can focus exclusively on the governor's race. Inslee apparently has said he won't do so, though it can't be easy attending to his duties all the way across the country in the other Washington while he's campaigning at home at the same time. I'm sure the DCCC would rather not see this happen, as the last time a sitting congressman opted to quit rather than deal with a long-distance gubernatorial race, his seat went to the GOP in a special election. (I'm talking about Neil Abercrombie's HI-01 in 2010.)


CA-44: I will be really happy when Janice Hahn puts an end to fellow Dem Rep. Laura Richardson's miserable career. If you've followed the Richardson story, you know that one of the most serious charges against her is the repeated use of government staff to perform political duties, a major violation of congressional rules. Despite being in the crosshairs of the Ethics Committee, it's apparently a very bad habit that Richardson seems incapable of dropping: According to a new Politico investigation, she deployed House aides to perform political work related to that most political of tasks, redistricting. Among other things, Politico alleges, Richardson directed staffers to draft talking points for constituents to deliver when California's new independent redistricting commission was soliciting input from the public—and tried to hide the activity by using private email accounts. Of course, as Politico points out, the irony is that Richardson got the shaft when the new lines were drawn anyway. Hopefully she'll get the shaft on election day, too, if the Ethics Committee doesn't get to her first.

FL-18: Excellent news: Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder says he will indeed step up to the plate and challenge weapons grade-wingnut Allen West in the Republican primary. As we mentioned on Monday, West is likely to may hay over Crowder's decision to endorse a Democrat, Alex Sink, over sleaze-encrusted conservative hero Rick Scott in last cycle's gubernatorial race. Grab some popcorn, because this one should be fun. (James L)

NY-22: A third Democrat has now entered the race for retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey's open seat: Sean Maloney, an attorney and one-time aide to ex-Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, just filed to create a campaign committee with the FEC. (Maloney had told Capitol Tonight's Liz Benjamin he was interested in the contest earlier this month.) If you have a particularly good memory, you'll recall that Maloney ran for attorney general in 2006, finishing third with just 9%. (Andrew Cuomo was the winner with 54%.)

Other Races:

CA-Init: This is a bummer: Just a week after a federal appeals court ruled that California's anti-gay marriage law known as Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, a group that had been gearing up to put an initiative on the ballot this November to repeal Prop 8 says it is abandoning its plans to do so. The organization, Love Honor Cherish, had already been gathering signatures but said the overall cost of such an effort would be too great. (If you're wondering why such an undertaking would even be necessary in light of the recent court decision, it's because the ruling was stayed pending appeal.)

NY-St. Sen: Hoo boy. That Mark Grisanti story doesn't seem to be getting any better. The Republican state senator who was involved in a brawl following a black-tie gala over the weekend is now being accused of hurling racial epithets in the midst of the rumble. What is Grisanti's response to the allegations? "I don't recall saying any racist word." Yikes. That's not the right answer. Also, that promised cell-phone video of (part of) the incident is now available.

Grab Bag:

NC Lege: This piece from the AP is a bit more feature-like than their usual fare, and there's nothing especially newsy here, but I though this lede was very interesting (if depressing):

Three years ago, 98 Democrats arrived at the North Carolina General Assembly to begin yet another session in the majority.

Longtime Sen. Marc Basnight and Rep. Joe Hackney again led their respective chambers to continue the party's almost uninterrupted period of control since 1898.

But governing through a rough economy, followed by an election that gave Republicans the gavels of power and pencils to redraw district boundaries for the next decade, mean fewer than half those Democratic lawmakers will be around the Legislative Building in 2013.

A review of election defeats, resignations and retirements shows that of the 30 Democratic senators in early 2009, 19 of them are no longer in the Senate or won't return after this year. In the House, 37 of the 68 Democrats in 2009 either are already gone, announced they won't seek re-election in 2012 or will be at home. Some won't return in 2013 because they'll lose to a fellow incumbent in the May primary. Others may not win in November. The candidate filing period begins Monday.

I still believe one of the biggest mistakes Democrats made during this round of redistricting was failing to pass a law mandating an independent redistricting commission in North Carolina while they still had the chance. Sure, the GOP might have tried to repeal once they took control of the legislature, but such a move could have proven unpopular—and more importantly, I think they'd have had a hard-time over-riding a veto from Dem Gov. Bev Perdue. Instead, Republicans wound up implementing one of the most devilish gerrymanders in the nation. Ah, what might have been.

North & South Carolina: Well, this isn't something you see every day:

On May 24, 1772, William Moultrie took a break from surveying the South Carolina-North Carolina border to visit little Charlotte Town, which he described as having five or six houses, “very ordinary built of logs.”

Nearly 240 years later, Charlotte has a few more houses. But the passage of time and the developers who built those houses have cut down the trees that Moultrie and his crew blazed with axes to mark the border between the two Carolinas. So when homeowners along that border – and some tax collectors – asked state officials to point out where the boundary is, they couldn’t do it.

Later this year, however, officials finally will know again where the South Carolina-North Carolina border is as they finish 18 years of work, at a cost of $980,000, to re-establish the boundary.

Hard to believe that at this late date, the border between two states is still unsettled, but that is indeed the case. Click the link for the fascinating story of geographic archaeologists digging back hundreds of years to try to figure out what the precise dividing line is. And if you're wondering what might happen to people who suddenly find themselves in a different state once this project is completed, there are some answers there, too. Very much worth a read.

Redistricting Roundup:

NY Redistricting: In federal redistricting litigation, the appointment of a three-judge panel to hear a case is usually almost automatic under U.S. law. Sometimes, though, requests (which go to a single judge) aren't granted immediately, and a New York lawsuit called Favors v. Cuomo is a case in point. The plaintiffs in Favors argue that the legislature has all but abandoned its duties to draw new districts since no new maps are in sight, and they want a three-judge court to appoint a special master to perform those duties. The judge currently hearing the case solo (Dora Irizarry) had been disinclined to initiate proceedings that would form a three-judge panel because the case did not seem ripe for adjudication—after all, the primaries were still more than half a year away.

But that all changed when a different judge bumped New York's congressional primary to June to comply with the federal MOVE Act. That changed also involved starting the candidate filing period in March, and that compressed timeframe certainly caught Irizarry's attention. She decided that waiting was no longer an option and set in motion plaintiffs' request for a three-judge panel, the first formal step in getting their substantive arguments heard about the legislature's failure to act. Now, there's nothing particularly interesting about all this procedural wrangling. But what did stand out to me is the final page of Irizarry's decision, in which I think she tips her hand and suggests she thinks the plaintiffs do have merit to their underlying claims. Irizarry will wind up on the three-judge panel (that's how the statute works), so it would be really interesting if a court wound up marching forward with map-making because lawmakers had dragged their heels so egregiously. (Incidentally, Irizarry is a Republican who ran for state attorney general in 2002.)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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