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Leading Off:

Demographics: You may be looking at the map below and frowning, wondering what the heck oddball historical election it represents:

Map of all 50 United States colored in by largest religious plurality in each state
(click for larger)

Well, it's nothing of the sort: It's all about religion. The red states are those where the plurality of adherents are Evangelical Protestants; the blue states are home to a plurality of Catholics. Yellow are Mainline Protestants, while green states have "Other" as a plurality, which clearly means Mormon in the three states in question.

But despite the topic, are you noticing any particular similarities between this map and the traditional "red" and "blue" states? Only four of the states with an evangelical plurality went for Barack Obama in the 2012 election (Florida, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington), and similarly only four of the states with a Catholic plurality went for Mitt Romney (Arizona, Louisiana, Montana, and Nebraska).

The data powering this map is from the Association of Religion Data Archives, which conducts a decennial census of the country's religious adherents, a topic that the Census Bureau doesn't address out of political concerns. It's worth noting that ARDA's numbers are limited only to persons who actually belong to congregations that they were able to contact. So in all but a handful of the most religiously-fervent states, "unclaimed" is a larger category than any particular religion, encompassing not just non-believers but also those not actively involved in a formally recognized religious movement. (Can't say that I care for the somewhat loaded phrase "unclaimed" either—makes it sound like lost luggage waiting to be picked up at the airport.)

Because of the way "unclaimed" dominates almost every state, I excluded it from this map. While offering a certain clarity, this decision also somewhat skews the results in those northwestern and New England states where the unchurched are most likely a plurality. For instance, you certainly don't think of the Pacific Northwest as being dominated by evangelicals—if anything, those states' red status speaks only to the even-greater absence of Catholics in those states. Nevertheless, if you're curious, the states with the highest "unclaimed" percentages are Maine, Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, and Nevada. We've also put together the entire data set as a publicly available Google Doc. (David Jarman)

Senate:

IL-Sen: I won't be satisfied for sure until we hear it directly from the horse's mouth, but it looks like at least one veteran Democratic senator won't be retiring. The Chicago Tribune, relying on unnamed sources, says that Dick Durbin "is telling top Democrats he will seek a fourth term in 2014."

MI-Sen: In the wake of Dem Sen. Carl Levin's retirement announcement last Thursday, we're seeing the usual wintry mix of potential candidates declining, expressing some interest, and just getting name-checked by the Great Mentioner. There's already a lot to discuss, so let's run through the entire field, starting with the GOP (in rough order based on interest level):

• Rep. Mike Rogers: "I am giving the Senate race serious consideration"

• Former SoS Terri Lynn Land: "Looking at it"

• Attorney Scott Romney: Reportedly "looking at" it, "according to a Michigan GOP source with first-hand knowledge" (and yes, he's the brother of Mitt)

• SoS Ruth Johnson: "Focused on her current job"

• State House Majority Whip Pete Lund: "I'm not ruling it out at this point"

• Rep. Fred Upton: "Never say never"

• Rep. Dave Camp: "I'm not going comment"

• Former MI GOP chair Saul Anuzis: "I haven't had a chance to look at it"

• Attorney General Bill Schuette: "I've got plans to keep working as your Attorney General for six more years"

• Lt. Gov. Brian Calley: "No plans to run"

• Rep. Candice Miller: "I will not be a candidate"

• 2012 candidate Clark Durant: "I will not be running next year"

• Former AG Mike Cox: "I've still got to make some college tuition money"

• Amway heir Dick DeVos: Will not run

• Former MI GOP chair Betsy DeVos Will not run

NBC's First Read also suggests a bunch of other possibles, some of which we've seen before, and none of whom have apparently said anything publicly one way or the other yet since the Levin news broke: Rep. Justin Amash, University of Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon, ex-Gov. John Engler, state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, and University of Michigan regent Andrea Fischer Newman. There's also state Sen. Roger Kahn, who had actually expressed some interest last year when it still looked like Levin might run again.

Mercifully, the list of Democrats is a lot shorter:

• Rep. Gary Peters: "I'm definitely going to give this full consideration"

• Ex-Gov. Jim Blanchard: No plans to run

• State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer: "I'll rule out three things now: governor, U.S. Senate and pope"

For a blue state, Michigan seems to have a surprisingly small Democratic bench, and only a handful of other prominent names have circulated: ex-Rep. Mark Schauer, ex-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and DNC committeewoman Debbie Dingell, the wife of Rep. John Dingell. Peters, though, would almost certainly be Team Blue's strongest candidate, so it's good to see that he sounds so serious about the race. Miller was probably the GOP's best hope, so Dems can breathe a sigh of relief, but Rogers would be a legitimate opponent as well. There was even talk a little while back of President Obama possibly naming him as the new head of the CIA; the post ultimately went to John Brennan, but perhaps Rogers is eager to get out of the House.

Meanwhile, poor PPP had a Michigan poll in the field just days before Levin made his decision not to run again which of course was rendered immediately obsolete by the news. But it's not entirely without its uses, because PPP looked at the favorables of various GOP alternatives, and their toplines against Levin can be used to judge their relatives strengths:

The one who came the closest to Levin was Candice Miller, although she still trailed him 46/35. She has good statewide favorability numbers with 33% of voters rating her favorably to 25% with an unfavorable opinion.

No one else came within 15 points of Levin. Justin Amash has a 9/20 favorability rating and trailed Levin 49/34. Mike Rogers has a 16/19 favorability rating and trailed Levin 49/33. Bill Schuette has a 20/25 favorability rating and trailed Levin 51/32. And Roger Kahn had a 5/15 favorability rating and trailed Levin 50/30.

One other Republican who we didn't test on this poll but could potentially be a good candidate is former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. in December 2010 we found she had a 36/21 favorability rating and trailed Debbie Stabenow by only 4 points in a hypothetical contest.

In any event, we'll undoubtedly hear much more in the coming days and weeks, and we'll be keeping track of all developments, so leave you dial tuned to Daily Kos Elections.

Gubernatorial:

AZ-Gov: His name had come up before on lists of possible Republican candidates, but now Mesa Mayor Scott Smith confirms that he's taking a "very, very close look" at next year's gubernatorial race. (Last cycle, he considered a bid for Congress but never pulled the trigger.) Smith sounds like he might be a quirky fit for the Arizona GOP, though, having expressed some hostility toward the state's punitive anti-immigration laws and tentative support for increased background checks for gun buyers. I'm not sure how he'd win a primary like that, but Arizona has some quirky dudes.

MN-Gov: We already knew Norm Coleman wasn't going to seek a rematch against Al Franken; now the Republican ex-senator confirms he won't run for governor, either. Consider this a good day.

House:

SC-01: Pre-primary fundraising reports are out for the South Carolina 1st District special, and the Washington Post has some highlights. On the GOP side, ex-Gov. Mark Sanford took in $334K over the last couple of months, but Teddy Turner actually beat him with $376K, though $245K was from his own pockets. And indeed, all of the notable current and former state legislators running—Sen. Larry Grooms, Rep. Chip Limehouse, and ex-Sen. John Kuhn—have all loaned themselves six figure sums ($100K, $400K, and $500K, respectively).

Meanwhile, the lone noteworthy Democrat in the race, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, raised well, pulling in $310K with over $200K on hand. She's also out with her first ad, a semi-biographical spot that focuses on jobs and, in particular, her experience in the local shipping industry. Sanford also has a new spot (his third), focusing on fiscal conservatism, while Kuhn has an ad (available at the same link) attacking Sanford, Grooms, and Limehouse all together for allegedly supporting a "a massive earmark spending bill." Unlike in the recently-concluded IL-02 primary, there's actually been quite a bit of action on the airwaves here, so if you'd like to see a complete roundup, the Cook Report has you covered (PDF).

Grab Bag:

Arkansas: Roll Call's Joshua Miller visits Arkansas on the paper's around-the-country tour of each party's "farm team" in every state. What's frustrating, as you'll find when you click through, is that there are still quite a few plausible Democrats in many parts of the state who could make legitimate runs for Congress—indeed, Miller cites a whole bunch by name—but it seems like no one actually wants to pull the trigger and take on any GOP incumbents.

Indeed, the only hope Team Blue seems to have is in the 4th, but only if freshman Republican Tom Cotton runs for Senate. Even the 2nd, which is the state's bluest district thanks to the presence of Little Rock, isn't attracting much interest. My feeling is that it'll only become harder and harder for Democrats to win any federal seats in Arkansas as time marches on, so if I were gonna make a run, I'd want to do it soon.

Polltopia: Mark Blumenthal of HuffPo Pollster has periodically chipped away at the many flaws surrounding Gallup's polling that surfaced before and after last year's election; now he's put together a pretty definitive overview of everything that might have gone wrong for the once-vaunted firm that's well worth a full read. You've probably heard the main contentions before, especially that Gallup's overly-restrictive likely-voter screen turned away younger voters who wound up voting. It also has some new insights into their sampling techniques, though, like their decision to switch to calling landlines only from electronic directories. Trying to save money on random-digit dialing means missing entirely households with unlisted landlines and no cellphone: a small segment of the population, but a decidedly pro-Obama one. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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