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Leading Off:

PA-12: Hoo boy. It looks like Jason Altmire may have really screwed up on this one. The short version is that in his newest ad, Altmire attacks Mark Critz for failing to "vote against the Tea Party budget that would dismantle Medicare and gut Social Security." The problem here is that almost the entire Democratic caucus did as Critz did when this bill came up last year, voting "present" (that is, abstaining) in the hopes that the GOP would actually pass this dystopian budget. The idea here was that if the budget passed, it would well and truly expose Republicans as the extremists they are—but would nevertheless be safely defeated in the Senate.

This was a canny strategic move, as it forced Republicans to whip their own members to ensure that this budget plan (known as the RSC budget) was defeated. But guys like Altmire actually made the GOP leadership's job easier, since "no" votes were what they desperately needed. So not only is he criticizing Critz for being a team player, Altmire gave succor to Republicans at a time when they needed it most. That makes this attack total bullshit.

On Thursday, though, Altmire doubled down, issuing a press release where he accused Critz of playing "political games" on the RSC vote. The problem is, that accusation also taints the other 171 Democrats who went along with leadership to send the GOP into an utter panic and very nearly punk them. So it's no surprise that the same day, several senior Democrats pushed back against Altmire's b.s. on behalf of Critz, including the plan's original architect, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Brady (who previously cut a check to Critz) and Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky also did a conference call in which they defended Critz.

This may seem like only so much inside baseball, and to a certain extent, it is. But Altmire's now cast aspersions against almost his entire party and leadership by calling the "present" vote a "stunt" and pretending as though Democrats made it more likely that the RSC budget would pass into law. (Like I said, even if GOP House leaders couldn't stop it, it was utterly doomed in the Senate.) And it certainly seems like he's pushed at least a few big-name Dems into getting involved in a race they otherwise might have remained neutral in. Maybe it won't matter, but right now, Altmire is on the defensive, and that's a place you never want to be.

Senate:

OH-Sen: Quinnipiac has brand-new numbers out for the hotly contested Senate races in both Florida and Ohio. Both show good results for Democrats, with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson increasing his lead over Rep. Connie Mack, and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown holding steady, by-and-large, with a double-digit margin over Treasurer Josh Mandel. Click the link for our full post, with complete numbers and our analysis, at Daily Kos Elections.

MA-Sen: Republican Sen. Scott Brown has now been dinged a second time on account of an outside group spending money to influence the race—but this one is gonna sting a little more. Per his agreement with Elizabeth Warren, he'll now have to cut a check for $35K to a charity of her choosing because the American Petroleum Institute ran radio ads on his behalf. (Last time, the amount was only in the low four figures.) Of course, Brown still has enormous sums of cash, but the goodwill stunts he pulled the first time (even airing his own ads touting the fact that he lived up to the deal—such a good guy!) can't really be repeated. And if some group is stupid enough to go in with six figures, that will genuinely be felt, since the fines are commensurate with the expenditures.

MO-Sen: This is nice to see: The Dem-aligned group VoteVets is going up with a $200K ad buy on behalf of Sen. Claire McCaskill, touting her work on behalf of veterans. The spot (which you can watch at the link) features Iraq vets talking about how she protected their access to healthcare and helped push through a new GI Bill. I think it's pretty good.

PA-Sen: Another Wenzel Strategies poll of the GOP Senate race (for Citizens United) shows higher vote totals than that all-single-digits affair from Franklin & Marshall the other day, but the numbers are still awful for rich guy Steven Welch. The survey has the other rich guy, Tom Smith, leading with 26%—though of course, it must be pointed out that CU endorsed him last week. Ex-state Rep. Sam Rohrer has 18%, while no one else has more than 4% and Welch just 2%. Still, given Welch's resources, he should be able to make this race more competitive. The question is, will he?

Gubernatorial:

NH-Gov: Is New Hampshire's Republican gubernatorial field finally set? It looks like it may be. Rich guy Steve Kenda, who had floated his name for a possible run some time ago and was pretty much the only person left on the fence, has decided not to pull the trigger. That leaves Granite State GOPers to choose between one-time teabagger (but now establishment favorite) Ovide Lamontage and bonafide still-a-teabagger Kevin Smith.

House:

CA-10: Awesome: A state court judge just ruled that Democrat Jose Hernandez can indeed list his profession as "astronaut" on the June top-two primary ballot, rejecting a Republican challenge that argued Hernandez shouldn't be allowed to do so because he left NASA in 2011. (The GOP is deciding whether to appeal. Go ahead, please keep on providing us more free media.) Hernandez had a good sense of humor about the whole thing, saying: "I thought the hardest part of being an astronaut was the training. I didn't realize it was going to be proving it in court." He also released a bad-ass video pushing back against this nonsense, and it's awesome enough that I'm mentioning it in spite of my general rule against linking to campaign web videos. Trust me, though, it's really cool.

CA-39: This is an interesting, under-the-radar development: Businessman and local school board member Jay Chen, who only entered the race in January February, says that he's already raised about $250K in his first eight weeks. Chen also says that a poll he commissioned from Tulchin Research before joining the contest showed Republican Rep. Ed Royce winning by a not-completely-hopeless 50-33 margin. However, this district will be a tough go for any Democrat: Even though John McCain only won it by a 49-47 spread, Republicans did much better here in 2010, with gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman taking 54% and Senate nominee Carly Fiorina pulling 55%. However, the district has sizable Asian and Hispanic populations and in fact is majority-minority (just not any one single minority). Chen has his work cut out for him, but this could be a sleeper worth watching.

IL-08: GOP Rep. Joe Walsh is just one of those guys where it's just better to let him do the talking:

Sitting inside a coffee shop during a recent 30-minute interview, Walsh had several of his trademark characteristics on display: a feverish intensity, an embrace of rhetorical combat and unfettered criticism of his opponent, who lost both of her legs and part of her right arm in 2004 after her helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.

"I have so much respect for what she did in the fact that she sacrificed her body for this country," said Walsh, simultaneously lowering his voice as he leaned forward before pausing for dramatic effect. "Ehhh. Now let's move on."

"What else has she done? Female, wounded veteran … ehhh," he continued. "She is nothing more than a handpicked Washington bureaucrat. David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel just picked her up and dropped her into this district."

MD-06: It looks like that massive cash advantage is paying off for financier John Delaney: He's touting a new internal poll from Garin-Hart-Yang showing him with a 49-23 lead over state Sen. Rob Garagiola in the Democratic primary. (Physician Milad Pooran is back at 10.) The election is on Tuesday, so if these numbers are accurate, Garagiola is going to have a hard time turning things around.

Garagiola did get one piece of good news on Thursday, though: Gov. Martin O'Malley is endorsing him. Is this the kind of thing that moves votes, though? Well, O'Malley is about as big a name as you can get in Maryland Democratic circles, but unless he's leveraging whatever machine he has in the region, it's hard to imagine it will be enough.

NJ-09: Even though he's been preparing for years and has a federal campaign account with $700K burning a hole in his pocket, former Englewood mayor Michael Wildes will reportedly not run for Congress this year, according to PolitickerNJ's sources. Instead, he will apparently endorse his fellow former Englewood mayor, Rep. Steve Rothman, who of course faces Rep. Bill Pascrell in the Democratic primary.

NJ-10: Irvington mayor Wayne Smith, whose interest in the race had been clear for a while, officially announced his entry into the contest to replace the late Donald Payne earlier this week. Smith is the fourth Democrat declare a bid, joining Donald Payne, Jr., Ron Rice, and Nia Gill.

NY-06: Is the Democratic primary in NY-06 going to turn into a labor vs. EMILY's List race? Assemblyman Rory Lancman just picked up his third union endorsement, from the powerful SEIU Local 32BJ. EMILY announced a few days ago that they'd support Lancman's main opponent, Assemblywoman Grace Meng, who also has the formal backing of the Queens Democratic Party. It'll be very interesting to see how this one plays out.

NY-21: Whoa. Did you guys get a load of this? Sometimes, a headline is all that you need:

Matt Doheny, ‘Strongest GOP Challenger in Country,’ Sucks Face with Campaign Consultant Who Is Not His Fiancée
Gawker (which broke the story, natch) has pics at the link—which Doheny claims merely show "two old friends joking around." Gawker, of course, brought down another upstate New York Republican politician (ex-Rep. Chris Lee) thanks in part to compromising photos it managed to score... though those were only the tip of the iceberg. So if I were Doheny, I wouldn't feel like I was in a very happy place right now. (And if I were a local GOP official, I'd be wondering if how we'd be able to find a substitute with just a couple of weeks left before the filing deadline.)

PA-12: Hey! I just spotted a unicorn! Yes, it's an actual union actually endorsing Dem Rep. Jason Altmire. The Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 47 just gave him their backing, one of only two labor groups (I believe) to do so—the rest have all gone for Mark Critz. As you'd expect, of course, there's a geographic connection here: Local 47 is based on Beaver County, Altmire's home turf.

Other Races:

NC-Init: Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen has some depressing numbers concerning the constitutional amendment that would ban both gay marriage and civil unions set to go before North Carolina voters in just six weeks:

Only 31% of voters correctly identify that Amendment 1 bans both gay marriage and civil unions.

28% think that it only bans gay marriage.

7% think that it actually legalizes gay marriage.

34% admit that they don't know exactly what the amendment does.

It's little surprise that the amendment is therefore passing by a 58-38 margin, even though a majority of voters say they support some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. I guess you can view this as glass-half-full: "When voters are informed that the amendment bans both gay marriage and civil unions their tune changes quite a bit. Only 41% of voters say they'll support it knowing that, while 42% are opposed." But as Tom says, there isn't much time left to educate people.

PA-AG: Just a few days after her rival for the Democratic AG nod, Patrick Murphy, went up on the air, Kathleen Kane, is doing the same. She has two ads: One is an introductory spot, the other tells of a man she prosecuted for rape whose brother then threatened her.

Grab Bag:

CPA: Josh Lederman takes a look at the updated target list of the Campaign for Primary Accountability, the weirdo super PAC which tries to unseat incumbents of both parties just for the crime of being an incumbent. But just because a name appears in the CPA's crosshairs doesn't necessarily mean much: Their spending has varied a lot between races, in some cases acting as a difference-maker and in others being very modest. So don't expect them to go all-out against every candidate named in Lederman's piece.

Filing Deadlines: Candidate filing deadlines passed in Missouri and South Dakota earlier this week; follow the links for official candidate lists.

Nebraska: PPP has the usual batch of miscellany for the Cornhusker State. Among other things, GOP Gov. Dave Heineman appears to be the most popular governor in the nation.

Redistricting Roundup:

KS Redistricting: It seems like the Kansas House finally passed a congressional redistricting plan, one which splits the state capital of Topeka into two districts (it's currently entirely within a single seat). Amusing side-detail: The map was named "Bob Dole 1," even though "the iconic former Republican senator had no role in putting it together." (Bob Dole!) However, the process is far from over: Now the House and Senate, which passed its own map, have to form a conference committee to hammer out the differences. That may be a very tall order, given the intra-party cleavages that exist in the Kansas GOP.

NH Redistricting: The New Hampshire state Senate has now passed a new congressional redistricting plan, somewhat different from the one a panel cleared the other week. It apparently represents a compromise between GOP Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass, both of whom wanted redder turf—obviously an impossible situation in a state with only two districts. So in the end, only small changes were made: The towns of Center Harbor, Deerfield, and Northwood move from NH-01 to NH-02, while Campton, Sanbornton, and Tilton head the other way. The state House still has to sign off, though if this new map truly reflects a deal between Guinta and Bass, it's hard to see them not doing so.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Mar 30, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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