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Leading Off:

ME-Sen: Holy elections, Batman! I can still scarcely believe that GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe announced her retirement on Tuesday, but there it is! This absolutely nuclear development turns this Safe R race into a big Dem pickup opportunity, given Maine's blue hue, and sharply sets back Republican hopes of recapturing control of the Senate.

All attention now will turn to plausible Republicans who might replace Snowe on the ballot—and big-name Democrats who are now going to be interested in the race with the seat open. And given Maine's occasional tradition of electing independents, it's not impossible that a legitimate third-party contender will emerge. So, putting on our Great Mentioner hat, we've come up with this preliminary list of possible names. (Note that an asterisk after a candidate's name indicates he or she ran for governor in 2010, the most recent wide-open statewide race in Maine.)

Democrats:

Rep. Chellie Pingree
Rep. Mike Michaud
Former state House Speaker Hannah Pingree
Former Rep. Tom Allen
Author Stephen King
Ex-Gov. John Baldacci
State House Minority Leader Emily Cain
Former state Sen. Libby Mitchell (2010 gubernatorial nominee)
Former state AG Steve Rowe*
Businesswoman Rosa Scarcelli*
Former State Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan*
Republicans:
Gov. Paul LePage (note: not up for re-election until 2014)
State Senate President Kevin Raye
Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney
Former Sen. (and former Sec. of Defense) Bill Cohen
Former Susan Collins chief-of-staff Steve Abbott*
Businessman Les Otten*
State Sen. Peter Mills*
Independents:
Ex-Gov. Angus King
Attorney Eliot Cutler (note: finished second in 2010 gubernatorial race)
And the Hotline lists several other Republican potentials
Attorney General Bill Schneider, former Ambassador Peter Cianchette, 2010 gubernatorial candidate... Bruce Poliquin (who serves as state treasurer), former Gov. Jock McKernan, and former state Rep. Josh Tardy
McKernan seems extremely unlikely to me, though, since he's Snowe's husband. In any event, though it goes without saying, we'll be following future developments in this race very closely.

Senate:

NE-Sen: As Monday's conflicting reports showed, there's definitely no telling whether Democratic ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey really is planning to run for his old seat—something he publicly decided against just a few weeks ago. Even DSCC chair Patty Murray is refusing to comment, though some Dems are worried that the "leak" (such as it is) will actually undermine efforts to get Kerrey to change his mind:

"True or not true, the leak is frustrating and damaging because it takes the control of the message away from the candidate," a Democratic consultant told Roll Call. "Apparently, we have a bunch of bozos masquerading as political operatives in D.C. You wonder if they actually wear their clown makeup to the office."
I think that's about right. If you're really trying to woo someone as notoriously flighty as Kerrey, why would you jump the gun like this and risk spooking him? Frankly, it makes the cynic in me wonder if this story wasn't planted by opponents of Kerrey's precisely to expose him to unwanted (and unappealing) pressure—and that pressure has apparently been intense, with a dozen Democratic senators reportedly making entreaties to Kerrey. (Harry Reid's also allegedly offered to restore Kerrey's previous level of seniority, but I'm dubious about that.)

There's also another aspect to this, which is that Kerrey does get in, he'd be shafting Chuck Hassebrook, the lone Democrat to file so far, who said: "I gave up my seat on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents based on his word. I do not believe he would go back on it." The Board of Regents is an elected position, so Hassebrook wouldn't be able to re-file for that post if he was pushed into dropping out of the Senate contest. In any event, there isn't much time left for Kerrey to decide: The filing deadline is on Thursday.

NJ-Sen: The New Jersey Senate race this year isn't shaping up to be the scene of much drama: a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll of the race finds Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez doubling up on state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, the principal announced Republican, 44-22. They don't have any trendlines on the Menendez/Kyrillos battle; the only other pollster to have looked at that matchup was Fairleigh Dickinson in January, who saw a 43-31 Menendez lead. (Isn't this the time of year when, in time-honored tradition, the Republican in New Jersey is supposed to be coming close in the polls, to give the NRSC some false hope and lull them into spending money here, only to watch things go kerflooey over the summer? Looks like we may not even get that bit of schadenfreude this year.) (David Jarman)

NV-Sen: The senate race in Nevada—where appointed Republican incumbent Dean Heller is trying for a full term—is looking like a slightly-Republican-tilting dead heat, and here's some polling evidence for that. Public Opinion Strategies gives Heller a 47-44 lead over Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley (though that's narrower than a 48-42 poll they took in September). POS, of course, is the kingpin of the Republican internal pollster world, but this poll isn't for the Heller camp; it's for the Retail Association of Nevada. And you might remember back to October 2010, when a POS poll for the Retail Association got NV-Sen dead-on when most public pollsters, even the live-callers, were showing a Sharron Angle win—so I'd give this more weight than your average GOP internal. (David Jarman)

VA-Sen: Here's something you don't see every day: a poll showing something other than a dead heat in the open Virginia Senate race between ex-Gov. Tim Kaine and ex-Sen. George Allen. Roanoke College gives Allen (the Republican) an 8-point lead, up 45-37. (Barack Obama trails Mitt Romney by 1 point in the same sample.) It's worth noting that Roanoke has been putting up the most Republican-friendly polls of Virginia of anyone all cycle, though; Allen led by 3 in September and 13 in March 2011. (David Jarman)

Gubernatorial:

NC-Gov: Former state House Speaker Dan Blue is the latest Democrat to say he won't run for governor, and in fact, he was actually the last major name we were waiting to hear from. So barring an unexpected entry, the Dem field looks like it belongs to ex-Rep. Bob Etheridge, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, and state Rep. Bill Faison.

WI-Gov: Encouraging news: Democrats have retaken the lead over Scott Walker in a new recall poll from Public Policy Polling. PPP tested nine different potential Dems in head-to-head matchups, though, so you'll have to check out our full post at Daily Kos Elections for all the numbers. There are also a couple of different looks at hypothetical Democratic primaries, also available at the link.

House:

AR-04: Is this the guy Arkansas Democratic Party chair Will Bond had in mind? Bond recently said he expected another Dem to join the race for Rep. Mike Ross's open seat, and now attorney Byrum Hurst has entered the contest. We'll wait to see if Hurst has any chops, but until now, Democratic recruitment has been abysmal. The only announced candidates are state Sen. Gene Jeffress, who hasn't filed any fundraising reports and isn't responding to press inquiries, and crypto-Republican D.C. Morrison, who you may recall ran for Senate in 2010 and helped force a runoff between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

CA-02: On Monday I said that SEIU California had given their support to activist Norman Solomon in the open 2nd CD. Well, that wasn't wrong, but it wasn't really accurate, either. Solomon's press release obviously only touted his own endorsement, but in point of fact, SEIU endorsed three Democrats in the race: Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, and Solomon.

HI-02: Honolulu Civil Beat's Chad Blair, in a piece on how Honolulu City Councilmember Tulsi Gabbard has benefitted from family connections in her run for Congress, gives a lengthy shout-out to our own Xenocrypt, who has put together an excellent series of diaries carefully documenting where Gabbard's money has come from.

IL-16: I don't know that it'll make much if any difference, but at least one member of Illinois' congressional delegation is taking sides in the member-vs.-member primary between Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Don Manzullo: sophomore GOPer Aaron Schock, who praises Kinzinger for being "young."

MD-06: Did Democratic financier John Delaney just use an image of an actual revolving door in his TV spot? Why yes, yes he did:

How could it fail to remind you of this seminal classic attack ad?
MO-01: After more than half a year of rumor and speculation, it's happening: Rep. Russ Carnahan, whose old 3rd CD seat was chopped to bits, has filed to seek re-election in the 1st District, which sets him on a collision course in the Democratic primary with fellow Rep. Lacy Clay. Carnahan still has a lawsuit in the works challenging the state's new congressional map, but he's mostly been met with setbacks and is currently pursuing a last-ditch appeal with the Missouri Supreme Court. Why not let the litigation conclude before jumping in, you might wonder? Because candidate filing began on Tuesday, and candidates who submit paperwork on the first day get a shot at having their names listed first on the ballot—something potentially worth a few extra votes on election day. So I'd imagine that if Carnahan's legal Hail Mary somehow works out, he'd change his plans, but for now, as he says: "Game on."

NC-06: It would have been an extremely tough row to hoe regardless, so I can understand why Dem state Sen. Don Vaughan has decided not to challenge GOP Rep. Howard Coble in the 6th. (It's also possible Coble won't even be the Republican nominee if he loses his primary to Guilford County Commissioner Billy Yow.) Indeed, the 59-year-old Vaughan won't be running for anything at all this year, since he got the shaft in redistricting and won't seek re-election to the Senate—though he didn't rule out a future run for office.

NE-02: Good news: The Obama campaign plans to open up an office in Omaha next month, in order to once again compete for the 2nd Congressional District's lone electoral vote. (You'll recall that Obama won narrowly NE-02 in 2008, giving him 1 EV because Nebraska splits up its electoral votes by CD.) This move is getting a mention in the Daily Digest because once again, Democrats are hoping to unseat GOP Rep. Lee Terry, who was so terrified of the Obama juggernaut four years ago that he even sent out mailers hyping the notion of "Obama-Terry voters." Terry escaped with a 52-48 win, but Team Obama's turnout machine still frightened the pants off him. Two Democrats are vying to take on Terry this year, Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing and state Sen. Gwen Howard, so hopefully we'll have just a little more luck this time out.

RI-01, RI-Sen: The new Fleming & Associates poll of Rhode Island's 1st district, held by Democratic freshman David Cicilline (still with stink lines coming off him from the financial disarray he left Providence in when he was mayor), has raised a lot of eyebrows: it shows Republican former state police chief Brendan Doherty leading by a wide margin, 49-34. Don't look for conservaDem businessman Anthony Gemma (who's likely to run in a primary against Cicilline) to ride to the rescue, though; he also loses to Doherty, 41-28.

This isn't the first time Fleming has found a big Doherty lead, though; in May 2011 they gave Doherty a 46-33 lead. And in the interim Starr Opinion Research, for GoProvLocal, found a totally different result, with Cicilline leading Doherty by a more believable 45-39 back in September, so depending on who you want to believe, Cicilline may be in small rather than big trouble.

This poll also includes a Senate portion, though, with Sheldon Whitehouse whomping Republican Barry Hinckley, 50-28, so that would suggest it's not a crazily Republican-friendly sample. (The poll also has approvals for all these characters and a number of other Rhode Island politicians, but it uses the dumb excellent/good/fair/poor formulation. One other important caveat: The 1st district portion is just half of a normal-sized sample, so we're talking about a poll with an n of 250.) (David Jarman)

Other Races:

PA-AG: Like many of you, I always enjoy learning the backstory of colorful long-ago ex-Reps. that I hadn't previously heard of. But this is a strange way to learn for the first time about a guy who's been out of the House for 30 years: by finding out that he's running for statewide office! PoliticsPA has an interesting piece on the saga of ex-Rep. Don Bailey, who surprised everyone by jumping into the Dem AG primary at the last minute (joining ex-Rep. and netroots fave Patrick Murphy and former prosecutor Kathleen Kane). Bailey served two terms and then lost a redistricting-forced battle with John Murtha in 1982 (!), got elected statewide as Auditor, then suffered a long losing streak in primaries in the 80s and 90s and gradually faded from the political picture. Well, he's back for a third (or fourth or fifth?) act, and given that there's no SW Pennsylvania candidate in the hunt here (and that a lot of SW Pennsylvanians are old enough to remember him), he may actually have a shot here if he can raise money. (David Jarman)

Redistricting Roundup:

NY Redistricting: Things are about to get very interesting very quickly in a key New York congressional redistricting lawsuit. As you'll recall, a three-judge federal panel was sympathetic to plaintiff's claims that the legislature was abandoning its duty to draw a new congressional map and last week, without a whole lot of briefing or fuss, directed a magistrate judge to start drafting new lines. The magistrate, Ronnie Mann, is moving at warp speed: At a Monday hearing, she told all parties to submit their own proposals by Wednesday. She'll then release her own map on March 12, and the three-judge panel will consider her plan on March 15. Mann has also tapped Columbia Law Prof. Nathan Persily, the same guy who served as a special master in Connecticut's recent round of redistricting litigation.

Meanwhile, lawmakers will not vote on proposed new legislative maps this week, which means they'll miss a self-imposed March 1 deadline to do so. It sounds like the lege is still negotiating with Dem Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has promised to veto the current proposals but has made it pretty clear he plans to cave if certain phony demands are met. In other words, it's a bunch of kabuki cartography.

TX Redistricting: Big news: New court-drawn maps are out for Congress, the state House, and the state Senate in Texas. Below is the congressional map:

Texas interim congressional map
(click for larger)
Over at Burnt Orange Report, Katherine Haenschen has some initial thoughts on the new maps. The short version is that they suck for Democrats. Kath says (and we agree) that these maps are virtually identical to the bogus "compromise" maps floated by Republican state AG Greg Abbott and MALDEF, a group which has long played the "useful idiot" role. Kath breaks down the damage district-by-district and it's really a depressing situation. In fact, the maps are little different from those passed by the legislature last year.

We also have, courtesy of the Texas Legislative Council, the most recent presidential results for the new congressional districts, along with the numbers for the old lines:

VA Redistricting: Bummer. A Virginia court has decided to dismiss a lawsuit against the state's new congressional map, in a case where plaintiffs had argued that the legislature forfeited its right to draw new lines by failing to do so in 2011, the year called for by the state constitution. An earlier ruling gave some hope to those challenging the map, but in the end, the case was booted. (I have yet to see the actual ruling, so I'm not exactly clear on why.) No word yet as to whether plaintiffs plan to appeal.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Feb 29, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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