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Leading Off:

NJ-Sen: It's a game-changer in New Jersey: Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg has just announced that he will retire at the end of this term, rather than seek re-election. Lautenberg had previously shot down reports that he would call it quits, but a number of recent polls showed him faring very poorly in a hypothetical primary matchup with Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Given that, plus his age (if he won another term, he'd be 96 by the end), Lautenberg's about-face doesn't seem especially surprising.

All eyes now will turn to the Democratic primary to succeed him, since Republicans have virtually no bench here and little hope of winning a Senate seat in the Garden State. (The GOP hasn't won an election for Senate in New Jersey since 1972.) Booker had taken several steps toward a primary challenge to Lautenberg, but in so doing, he seemed to infuriate much of the Jersey Dem establishment by not showing sufficient respect to the incumbent. They may secretly be glad Booker wasn't willing to wait his turn in line, though, since his impatience may have helped usher Lautenberg out the door, and now other Democrats will feel free to jump in.

The person who's seemed closest to a bid is Rep. Frank Pallone, who, according to various reports, has been slowly and quietly locking up support from the various local power-brokers who are often crucial to success in New Jersey politics. (For what it's worth, an anonymous source tells The Fix that Pallone is indeed running.) Other possibilities include state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, and even Rep. Rob Andrews, who ran a disastrous primary campaign against Lautenberg in 2008. State Sen. Richard Codey could also be a possibility. Booker, incidentally, never officially declared that he'd run, but it would be pretty surprising if he now decided to pass up the chance.

New Jersey hasn't had an open Senate seat since 2000, which incidentally was the last time Lautenberg retired before his unexpected comeback in 2002, so we can expect a pretty intense contest, even if it's just a one-on-one matchup between Booker and Pallone. And if it's a battle between a young self-styled reformer with ambitions of national profile versus a creature of the old school intent on following the traditional playbook, it could be a very interesting race indeed.

As for New Jersey's other senator, Democrat Bob Menendez, Monmouth says that all the recent stories about his ethical travails haven't hurt him—yet. Their new poll (PDF) gives him a 41-31 job approval rating, which is pretty much in line with his historical scores. Needless to say, though, that could always change—just as the picture for Lautenberg's seat did.

Senate:

KY-Sen: New Republican pollster Harper Polling has conducted a new poll of the Kentucky Senate race for new Republican political consulting firm RunSwitch Public Relations. They find GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell leading actress Ashley Judd (who still hasn't said whether she's running) by a 49-40 margin, which actually may be some of the best numbers McConnell's seen so far, though that ain't saying much.

They also include a couple of message-testing-type questions, but I'm mostly amused by the fact that 37 percent of Kentucky voters say they would be more likely to support Judd if they "knew that she describes herself as a radical and has pledged to support President Obama," while "only" 48 percent say they'd be less likely to! I don't really see the point of asking questions like this in a public poll, though (PPP almost never does anything like this)—unless you're hoping for earned media hits that reinforce your message.

LA-Sen: I hadn't imagined Charles Boustany was interested in running for Senate after his bruising member-vs.-member re-election battle last year, but PPP included him in their new poll anyway... and now, it turns out, he's not ruling out the idea after all. That could set up an amusing second showdown with the guy he beat last year, ex-Rep. Jeff Landry, who's also apparently interested in a Senate bid.

And indeed, a Boustany spokesman referenced his boss's "22 point victory" over Landry in December's runoff... but Boustany shouldn't be too psyched about that, considering he represented three times the turf Landry did in their mashed-up district. So if anyone out-performed, it was Landry; Boustany, meanwhile, wouldn't have that kind of cushion in a statewide race and would have to convince Republican voters to support him despite his much more "moderate" profile. That's no easy task.

MA-Sen: Hah, I guess my dream of a "true conservative" candidate emerging in the Republican primary to take on Dan "chief counsel for Americans Elect" Winslow and Gabriel "I donated to Alan Khazei and Barack Obama" Gomez may come true: Sean Bielat, who's lost two congressional races in the past two cycles, says he's considering a run as well. The hurdle for all these guys, as we've mentioned, is the fact that they each need 10,000 verified signatures from Republican or independent voters, by no later than Feb. 27. You don't need up your calculator app to know that time is on no one's side.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Reps. Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch have signed a version of the "People's Pledge" that Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown successfully used last year to limit spending by outside groups. The Warren-Brown agreement actually held up pretty well, though there are some slight differences this time: Markey and Lynch are trying to ban mailers (something not done in the prior race), but they are apparently willing to allow robocalls. Go figure. Anyhow, no Republicans are showing any interest in signing on.

Finally, there's this new piece in the Boston Globe, which is actually just an in-depth rehash of an old issue: Markey's residency. For over a decade, Markey's owned what was once his childhood home, though like most other lawmakers, he also has a house in the DC area, where the Globe seems to think he spends the bulk of his time. So is this just a non-issue, or is Markey the second coming of Richard Lugar, whose lack of ties to his home state of Indiana were the subject of many attacks in last year's GOP primary? Well, it probably all comes down to Lynch, who so far has declined to go after Markey on this and may well never engage on the topic. If that winds up being the case, then it's all a dead letter.

MI-Sen: Surely we wouldn't get this lucky, right? Citing unnamed sources, the National Review says that GOP Rep. Just Amash, high prince of the dystopian wing of the Republican Party, is looking at a run for Senate if Democrat Carl Levin retires. Levin hasn't announced his plans yet, of course, and he may well run again, so this could be totally moot. And even if this scenario did come to pass, Amash would almost certainly need help from the Club for Growth, as well as a split primary field, in order to earn his party's nomination (just like he did in 2010 for his House seat). But we can dream, right?

MS-Sen: It's certainly not uncommon for senior senators to hold off on announcing their re-election plans, and Thad Cochran certainly is senior: He's 75, has served in the Senate since 1978, and is the second longest-tenured Republican in the chamber. He also says he won't decide on whether to run again until "the end of the year or the beginning of the next year." I'm sure that hesitancy isn't endearing him to his fellow party members back home: If he does bail late in the cycle, it would only leave a short period before the primary for possible successors to gear up for a campaign. (This being Mississippi, the general election is a foregone conclusion.) But hey, whatever. Waiting for politicians to make up their minds, even when they've had forever to think about things, just seems to be how life works.

Gubernatorial:

IL-Gov: Not sure there's a worse sign for your gubernatorial re-election chances than when your lieutenant governor bails on you, but that's exactly what Sheila Simon is doing, a year ahead of Illinois's Democratic primary. She's saying arrivederci to Gov. Pat Quinn, though fears about his dim chances at re-election may not be her only motivator: Simon, whose father was the late Sen. Paul Simon, could run for comptroller or attorney general instead.

To run for AG, though, Simon would need the person who currently holds that job, Lisa Madigan, to take a run at Quinn. All signs seem to point to "yes" as far as that possibility goes, and to that end, yet another poll shows Madigan beating Quinn in a hypothetical primary. The survey, from (funnily enough) the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU Carbondale, has a very small sample size (just 310 respondents), but Madigan is ahead of Quinn 33-22, with Bill Daley at 12. It's getting harder and harder to see how Quinn can hang on to his job when he's already registering so poorly—and this is without a single declared opponent.

LA-Gov: Louisiana's next gubernatorial election is not until 2015, and Democrats haven't seriously contested the post since 2003, but PPP includes a look forward in their new batch of miscellany:

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is seen pretty positively statewide, with 49% of voters rating him favorably to 26% with an unfavorable opinion. In a hypothetical contest with Senator David Vitter, who has a 46/38 approval rating, the two would be tied at 44%. Landrieu would have a slight edge over Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne at 44-42. If Landrieu decided to run it appears that it would be a competitive race.
Landrieu, like his sister, is a Democrat while Vitter and Dardenne are, of course, Republicans, making these results (speculative as they are) pretty interesting for a state as red as Louisiana.

MA-Gov: Well, it's official: Former GOP Sen. Scott Brown is now an analyst at FOX News, making his debut on Wednesday night with none other than Sean Hannity. As we said when this move was first reported, it's hard to imagine Brown running for governor next year with the FOX logo tattooed on his biceps. Hey, money is money!

House:

IL-02: Hey, guess who went on FOX News on Thursday afternoon to troll for votes in the... Democratic primary? That would be Debbie Halvorson, of course. My Daily Kos colleague Jed Lewison captured it for your viewing pleasure. There's nothing particularly noteworthy, though, beyond the fact that, less than two weeks before election day, Halvorson is spending her time on FOX, whining about being targeted for her views on guns. She also claims that Illinois has an open primary, which isn't really true: Voters have to declare their party affiliation at their polling place, so Halvorson is all but asking Republicans to claim they are Democrats for a day (or a minute) and cast a ballot for her. Right or wrong, it's a hell of a way to try to win a Democratic primary.

Grab Bag:

Alaska: As long as Roll Call keeps posting `em, we'll keep linking `em: Thursday brings the paper's second installment in their "Farm Team" series, which heads up north to Alaska. One thing I like about these stories is that they tend to take a longer view of each party's bench, since they aren't tied to speculation about any particular race. So even in dark-red Alaska, there are some Democrats worth looking out for in the future; click through to see whom Kyle Trygstad has in mind.

IL Redistricting: The Illinois Senate approved same-sex marriage in the Land of Lincoln on Thursday afternoon, in a 34-21-2 vote. Of the 40 Democrats in the chamber, 33 voted yes, two voted "present," another two did not vote, and three voted against. One Republican, Jason Barickman, also voted yes; interestingly enough, he represents largely the same territory that Republican now-State Treasurer (and then-state Senator) Dan Rutherford did when Rutherford was the only Republican to vote "yes" on civil unions two years ago. Passage represents quite the turnaround from just a month earlier, when a similar bill stalled in the lame-duck session.

Normally, this wouldn't be DKE material, but as our heading suggests, redistricting may have played a significant role. Consider what changed between the January lame-duck session and now: The Dem caucus, thanks to the redistricting plan instituted for the 2012 elections, expanded from 35 members to 40. The new Senate map created three new Democratic seats (Steve Stadelman's SD-34 in Rockford, Andy Manar's SD-48 connecting Springfield and Decatur, and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant's SD-49 between Joliet and Aurora), while also allowing Dems to pick up one open Republican seat (SD-31 in northern Lake County, won by Melinda Bush) and knock off one Republican incumbent in DuPage County (Tom Cullerton defeated SD-21 incumbent Carole Pankau, who voted against civil unions). All five of these freshman Democrats voted yes, pushing the bill above the 30-vote threshold needed to pass.

With the exception of SD-31, the Dem gains were in new or substantially reconfigured seats that Democrats almost certainly would not have won previously. SD-31 maintained most of its shape (with some changes on the edges), and it's possible that Melinda Bush would have won even without the remap. The previous incarnation, though slightly more Republican-leaning, had been represented by Democrat Michael Bond between 2006 and 2010, and Republican incumbent Suzi Schmidt (another "nay" on civil unions), who had a series of personal issues likely would have opted to retire either way. But Bush only won by a few thousand votes, and it's hard to say that she would have prevailed in the old version of the district. (Additionally, some Dems who found themselves in more solidly Democratic districts may not have voted yes had they still represented their more marginal predecessor districts.)

As for the bill itself, it moves on to the Dem-held Illinois House. Democrats control 71 seats there, up from 64 prior to the remap and 2012 election. (jeffmd)

Maps: Artist and urban planner Neil Freeman has put together a neat map depicting what the United States might look like if it were divided into 50 states... of equal population. Explains Freeman:

The map began with an algorithm that grouped counties based on proximity, urban area, and commuting patterns. The algorithm was seeded with the fifty largest cities. After that, manual changes took into account compact shapes, equal populations, metro areas divided by state lines, and drainage basins. In certain areas, divisions are based on census tract lines.
Click through for his complete vision—it's pretty fun stuff. While of course it's just fantasy, the giant states of Shiprock, Ogalalla, and Salt Lake out west show you just how thinly populated that part of the country is.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  MA Sen: Markey 38 Lynch 31 (6+ / 0-)

    www.buonoforgovernor.com

    by Paleo on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 05:04:34 AM PST

  •  Where are the NJ Pres-by-CD numbers? (0+ / 0-)

    We were promised them "in the next few days" last week.  What happened?

  •  Rush Holt and Scientist-Politicians (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    desmoinesdem, brook, R30A

    If Rush Holt were to become the next Senator form New Jersey, that would make him the only reserch scientist in the senate.

    Bill Foster (D-IL) is currently the only other research scientist in Congress - coincidentally both he a Holt are physicists.

    Foster drew some criticism when he considered founding a PAC (this idea was interrupted by his candidacy for a second stint in Congress) for being too much of a Democratic partisan. There is a divide between think tank policy wonks and researchers in the laboratories. The policy wonks want scientists to embrace more Republicans, and researchers in the laboratories are generally progressive Democrats who would despise Republican policies.

    I feel a diary coming on.

    One final note. Scientists more consistently become politicians in other countries. For example, Angela Merkel is a physicist as well.

    http://www.snappac.org/ Students for a New American Politics!

    by redrelic17 on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 05:40:39 AM PST

    •  American scientists (0+ / 0-)

      Much like scientists across the world, American scientists are largely secular people. Given the fact that the irreligious have a huge stigma on them in terms of the American electorate, it is no surprise there aren't more of them in elected office. Also, there are other facts as well, like scientific minded people often see political discourse as beneath them and their skill set, and a lot of highly intelligent people in the sciences are quite socially awkward, which is antithetical to what is required of elected officials.

      •  Mmm... (5+ / 0-)

        Scientists aren't "socially awkward." I believe you outed yourself as an engineer, in which case I will half-jokingly accuse you of projection.

        Research science is actually good training for a political career. There are great many opportunities for public speaking and debate, contact with the media, and then there's working in a political bureaucracy (the university).

        I want to break through some of the stereotypes associated with scientists, because they are holding back greater political success.

        I'd also like to point out that many weirdos and introverts are routinely elected to Congress. I think they are the norm, in fact.

        http://www.snappac.org/ Students for a New American Politics!

        by redrelic17 on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 06:25:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Jerry McNerney (D-CA) has a sci/eng background (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      redrelic17

      Though he also was in the business side of things, being the CEO of a wind power startup.

    •  I know people in Holt's district (7+ / 0-)

      I like the bumper stickers that read "My Congressman is a rocket scientist."

      Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

      by desmoinesdem on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 07:56:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Booker (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    musiccitymollie

    will always vote dem but Booker is annoying
    would love to see Holt he is the best!
    Menendez just as dirty as Torrecelli remember HIM?

    •  Absolutely, forget Booker! If I have a chance, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PhilK

      I'll post some a Meet The Press transcript that I believe would be a "wake-up" call, LOL!

      He's the ultimate corporatist.  Heaven help us all, if he's elected!!!

      Holt would be MUCH better.  Like that "bumper sticker." :-)

      Mollie

      "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible." --Frank L. Gaines

      "If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson

      by musiccitymollie on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:14:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  But Pallone is totally with the machine (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      musiccitymollie

      Pallone's been my Congressman for 10 years, and I haven't a clue about him (and I pay attention). As far as I can tell, he's a complete machine insider working his way up the ladder. Booker may be an annoying showboater, but he's also ambitious as heck, willing to push and to take chances. He may be beholden to corporations, but so is any Senator -- don't delude yourself. And Pallone, to get my vote, would need to show very clearly that he's NOT beholden in all sorts of dark ways that don't pass the smell test, knowing NJ machine politics.

      Holt is head-and-shoulders above all of them: even though he's NOT my Congressman, I know far more about him than I do about Pallone!

  •  Add- AZ-Gov (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thomask

    Democrat Fred DuVal has filed papers forming an exploratory committee regarding a run for Governor in 2014. ☛ az central

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 06:36:30 AM PST

    •  Carmona would probably be better (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      betelgeux, Azazello

      Or at least more likely to actually win a race for Governor. He only barely lost against the popular Flake, and I don't think any GOP gubernatorial candidates are as popular as Flake is.

      Leftist Mormon in Utah, Born in Washington State, live in UT-04 (Matheson).

      by Gygaxian on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 08:49:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Respectfully, I'd beware of Carmona. He was a (0+ / 0-)

        Republican for years.  He's a DLC-supported Dem, not in the least "progressive" on the social insurance programs.

        Last year, I wrote a blog that took all the "stances" of the candidates for Senate, and his was (at that time, on this website) verbatim what former Senator Kent Conrad had on his website.  

        Yikes!! Conrad, with his double-speaker, tried like heck to slash all the social insurance programs.

        I'd be very cautious about him.

        Mollie

        "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible." --Frank L. Gaines

        "If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson

        by musiccitymollie on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:21:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  BTW, being a former Republican in itself, wouldn't (0+ / 0-)

          necessarily be a "deal killer" for me.

          But, like one of the Dems' Reps who won in Florida (Chris somebody--maybe Murphy?), he was "a Republican who switched his registration," just to run as a Dem.

          That's unacceptable, IMO.

          Heck, watched this Florida Rep's debate on C-Span.  In closing remarks, this guy actually appealed to voters by saying--Hey, I use to be a Republican!!!  

          I almost fell out of my chair.

          And we wonder, at times, that we can't get a progressive agenda through the Congress.  What are voters thinking?  Go figure.

          Mollie

          "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible." --Frank L. Gaines

          "If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson

          by musiccitymollie on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:29:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  MAJOR CORRECTION TO COMMENT ABOVE!!! (0+ / 0-)

            The Florida Rep that I was referring to was Patrick Murphy.  He is from Palm Beach Gardens, FL, and from a very wealthy family who owns a successful construction business.

            Chris Murphy is a CT Senator (I believe).  He was in the House, but I'm thinking that he won a Senate seat in November.

            My apologies.
            I owe it to anyone to be accurate, if I'm quoting them (even loosely). :-)

            Mollie

            "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible." --Frank L. Gaines

            "If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson

            by musiccitymollie on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:42:10 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  "young self-styled reformer" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill W, R30A, betelgeux

    I think "young Joe Lieberman" would be a more apt description.

  •  best campaign list-building scheme ever (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Swamp Cat

    courtesy of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's strategists. This is a very big deal in Iowa.

    Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

    by desmoinesdem on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 07:55:52 AM PST

  •  Menendez (0+ / 0-)

    The "story" bugs the &%$# out of me.

    If the guy is flying to the Dominican Republic on private jets he conveniently forgot to pay for in order to visit under-aged hookers (or any hookers) he either needs to go, or switch party affiliation.

    If it isn't true, it's a hell of a smear campaign and I'd like to know who orchestrated it.

  •  NJ Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver's attempt will (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    redrelic17, PhilK

    be dead in the water since all of the Democratic leaning public employees and retirees will be reminded again and again that she collaborated with Christie's bag boy, Senate President Steve Sweeney (also a Democrat), to water down their pensions and health benefits.  It would never have happened without the active participation of the Newark Democrats (Oliver) and Sweeney, a so called "union president" who actively participated in selling NJ's public employees down the river.  

    Oliver will have no support from any public employees union or the teachers who all felt betrayed by their actions.  And all the other candidates for this Senate seat will be sure to remind them what Sheila Oliver did to collaborate with Governor Christie on this critical issue of fairness and equity for public employees.

    And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

    by MrJersey on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 09:12:20 AM PST

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