• MA-Sen: Both Democrats in the Massachusetts Senate special election have just gone on the air for the first time, with The Fix reporting that Ed Markey is spending $260K on his initial run versus $217K for Stephen Lynch. Markey's ad features a clip of actor and NRA spokesman Charlton Heston lofting a long gun and bellowing "from my cold dead hands"—a lead-in to Markey discussing his efforts to ban the importation of Chinese assault weapons and to promote "tougher gun laws" with President Obama. This is now the second Democratic primary this year where we've seen guns show up in television advertising, and where a Democrat has openly taken on the NRA (the other being IL-02's Robin Kelly). Presumably, Markey's polls show that this is an issue which moves voters, just as it did for Kelly.
Lynch, meanwhile, goes a more boring and predictable route, touting his humble upbringing and years spent as an ironworker. It's a decidedly non-partisan message that also offers a small confirmation about what Lynch thinks his path to victory must be: "In Congress," he says, "I've learned that doing what's right means knowing when to compromise and when to stand firm." That word there, "compromise," is a nod to the disaffected independent voters whom he'll need in order to have a shot at winning. But those aren't the kind of people who turn out in droves in a special election primary.
• GA-Sen: Oh, this is really good. As Rep. Phil Gingrey prepares to enter the GOP primary for Senate, he's pruning his soul of various bits of unpleasantness that might harm his chances further down the line. One wart he's freezing off is to preserve his appeal to the right: Gingrey now insists he's not open to limiting the clip capacity of guns which hold as many as 100 rounds, claiming that doing so "would not solve the problem." (All he ever said in the first place was that he's "willing to listen to the possibility," but that was more than enough to send the wingnuts howling.)
The other unwanted growth he's trying to excise is aimed at the general election, but it's a lot funnier. In the same interview two months ago where he discussed guns, Gingrey also went out of his way to defend Todd Akin for his legendary "legitimate rape" comments—an amazing thing to do after the ultimate ass-kicking Akin received in November. Even more remarkable is the fact that Gingrey is an OB-GYN himself but he agreed that "a woman's body has a way of shutting down." Yeah, oops. Now he's saying he "went over articles and more recent journals" that showed he was, uh, completely batshit wrong about this... so does that mean he missed every single discussion on the topic after Akin became a household name last year? That Phil Gingrey, sharp as beeswax.
• KY-Sen: I've long believed that GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell is actually worried about Ashley Judd, despite all her shortcomings, and maybe one day I'll lay out all my thoughts at length. But for now, I'll just point out that McConnell is reportedly preparing to air campaign ads starting this week—a full 20 months before election day. That's not the kind of move a confident campaign makes.
• MI-Sen: We finally have word straight from the lone wolf's mouth: GOP Rep. Justin Amash confirms he is "certainly open" to a bid for the Senate seat left open by Democrat Carl Levin's retirement. With his dystopian libertarian philosophy, he'd obviously be great in a general election—for Democrats, naturally.
Meanwhile, Republican pollster Harper Polling has a new poll for the website Conservative Intelligence Briefing, but I'm honestly getting a little tired of critiquing their decision-making. I mean, the only Democrat for whom they released full head-to-heads is ex-Gov. Jennifer Granholm ... who lives in California, has expressed no interest in running, and lo and behold, remains unpopular two years after leaving office.
If you wanted to pick a polarizing figure who likely won't run but would make a race look more competitive than it is, you'd pick Granholm—and that's a sketchy choice to make. Even PPP's boneheaded critics have to acknowledge that the firm is catholic when it comes to testing the entire universe of potential candidates, whatever the race. If Harper Polling wants to get taken as seriously as PPP, it's a lesson they'd do well to heed.
• NC-Sen: It's that time of month again: PPP's out with their regular look at the North Carolina Senate race. There are actually a couple of things worth noting here. One is that there's a new leader in the GOP primary pack, albeit by a very slim amount:
Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, tested for the first time, leads the way among GOP voters at 18%, followed by Virginia Foxx at 13%, Cherie Berry at 12%, Renee Ellmers at 10%, Phil Berger at 8%, Patrick McHenry at 7%, Greg Brannon at 4%, Thom Tillis at 2%, and Terry Embler at 1%.And in a first, Dem Sen. Kay Hagan hits 50 percent in some matchups:
Forest and McHenry come the closest but still trail by 10 points at 50/40 and 49/39 respectively. Berry and Foxx do next best but each face a 12 point deficit at 50/38 and 49/37. After them it's Ellmers who trails by 13 at 49/36, Berger and Tillis who trail by 14 at 51/37 and 50/36 respectively, Brannon who trails by 15 at 51/36, and Embler who trails by 19 at 52/33.That's mostly noise, though, since Hagan's traded in a narrow band, as a Wall Street type might say, in PPP's prior three polls, always between 45 and 49 percent. Still, any day your poll numbers reach 50 when you're a freshman Democrat in a red state is a good day.
• SD-Sen: Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota are all places where Republicans are a'feared of one big name that might get into each state's upcoming Senate contest, and so everyone's tip-toeing around all those sleeping giants. In the case of the last state on that list, the macher that the GOP is waiting on is ex-Gov. Mike Rounds, but some other names have started surfacing, mostly folks who view Rounds as too moderate. Sophomore Rep. Kristi Noem has long been viewed as a more conservative alternative, though she's remained totally mum. However, state Senate Majority Whip Larry Rhoden now tells Roll Call that he's "had some conversations" about the race and hasn't "ruled it out." Former state Sen. Bill Napoli also says he might run if Noem doesn't. With any luck, we could see yet another messy GOP primary here.
• CT-Gov: For some reason, Quinnipiac decided to poll Connecticut twice in one week, and their second survey finds Dem Gov. Dan Malloy's approval rating all the way at 48-39. But is it just noise? This poll was in the field March 7-10, while the prior poll was conducted March 4-5. That first test produced an even 43-43 job approval score for Malloy, which is actually instructive. There's no way Malloy soared 9 net percentage points in virtually no time at all, which just shows you why you should never pin too much on a single poll.
Quinnipiac still hasn't asked any actual head-to-heads against potential Republican candidates, but in the newer survey, they included Malloy's general re-elect numbers. Despite the good approvals, he's only at 42 percent "deserves to be re-elected" and 45 against.
• NJ-Gov: Believe it or not, but Chris Christie's 58-22 lead over Democrat Barbara Buono in Farleigh Dickinson's latest poll is an "improvement" for her over last time, when Christie was up 64-21. I wonder if there's some hack out there who contemplated writing up a press release headlined: "Christie Plummets Six Points in New Poll."
• PA-Gov: Sweet Jesus, these new numbers for GOP Gov. Tom Corbett are just brutal. When PPP was in the field in Pennsylvania just a couple of months ago, things certainly didn't look good for the incumbent. Now they look absolutely atrocious. Corbett's job approval rating has sunk from an already-pitiful 38-52 down to a treacherous 33-58, making him the third least-popular governor in the nation (only Illinois's Pat Quinn and Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee fare worse in PPP's testing).
And the head-to-heads? Oy vey. Here's a run-down, with January's results in parentheses:
• 34-45 vs. ex-Rep. Joe Sestak (42-36)
• 34-45 vs. Treasurer Rob McCord (41-35)
• 33-42 vs. businessman Tom Wolf (41-29)
• 34-41 vs. ex-Sec. of Environmental Protection John Hanger (41-37)
Holy smokes! It's bad enough that Corbett couldn't break 42 percent in the previous survey; now he can't break 34! And as Tom Jensen notes, the Democratic field is still largely unknown. It's a commonplace to say that two years is a long time in politics—and it certainly is. But how is Corbett supposed to come back from this? And honestly, even if PPP's new numbers are total outliers, the January results still suck for Corbett and don't really offer him much hope. And honestly, even if PPP's new numbers are total outliers, the January results still suck for Corbett and don't really offer him much hope, especially since the news driving his numbers down isn't about to go away any time soon:
Only 25% of voters approve of how he's handled the Penn State situation, to 58% who disapprove. And just 17% support his plan for privatizing the state lottery, compared to 67% who oppose it. In both cases Corbett's leadership is being repudiated even by members of his own party—he has just 35/45 support for his handling of Penn State and 25/55 support for lottery privatization from Republicans.So I'm thinking it's not impossible Republicans will try to pitch him overboard, much as Democrats did with former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter in 2010—a move that paid off, as the much more popular John Hickenlooper was able to preserve that seat for Team Blue. The real question may be whether Corbett will go on his own, or whether he'll get pushed. Among Republican primary voters, only 37 percent want Corbett as their nominee once more, while 49 percent say they'd like an unnamed "someone else." That "someone else" could be Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor, who has been considering a challenge and has now sliced Corbett's lead in a hypothetical matchup to 43-23 from 51-11.
The general election head-to-heads, though, could also make for a complicated Democratic primary as well. While Schwartz is gathering steam for a bid, Corbett looks like such a sitting duck right now that the likes of Sestak and McCord may be tempted to give it a shot, even if that means enduring a hotly contested nomination battle. But hey, that's a good problem to have—for us. For Tom Corbett, not so much.
• VA-Gov: Well, it looks like Bill Bolling has come to his senses: Virginia's Republican lieutenant governor, who had been contemplating an independent bid for governor, has finally concluded that he wouldn't have a path to victory and has decided not to run. On one level, the VA GOP has to be relieved, since simple math would suggest that Bolling would pull more votes from their side than from the Dems. However, a series of three-way polls actually showed Bolling pulling support equally from both parties, so an independent candidacy may not have been as predictable as you'd expect.
In any event, Bolling also refused to endorse the man who yanked the GOP nomination from him, AG Ken Cuccinelli, saying only that "I wish Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Cuccinelli well as they begin their campaigns." ("McAuliffe," of course, being putative Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe.) It's no surprise that Bolling has no interest in backing Cuccinelli—the bad blood is palpable. The question now is whether he'll quietly back away from the campaign, or whether he'll seek to shove more daggers in Kooch's back.
Bolling offers a small clue, saying he "will return to the private sector and look for other ways to serve Virginia." So if he doesn't anticipate a future in electoral politics, he'd be a dangerous free agent. Hell, he could even endorse T-Mac if he wanted. We'll also have to see whether Bolling's would-be backers decide to suck it up and stick with Cuccinelli, though they, too, have other options, such as sitting it out or even quietly helping McAuliffe. In other words, the fallout from Bolling's disaffection is by no means fully complete.
• NY-23: One of the most surprising results of the 2012 elections came out of upstate New York's Southern Tier, where GOP Rep. Tom Reed barely fended off an underfunded Democratic challenger by a very narrow 52-48 margin. But despite the closeness of that race, that challenger, Tompkins County legislator Nate Shinagawa, has now announced that he won't run again in 2014. This a pretty upstanding move, especially since it comes so early in the cycle, since now other candidates can explore this opportunity without having to wonder whether Shinagawa will get in again. And hopefully Democrats will offer Reed an even stiffer fight this time.
P.S. Shinagawa is quite young (only about 30 years old), so we may well hear from him in the future.
• PA-13: I've seldom seen the Great Mentioner as hard as work as she is in Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District, but as analyst Thomas Fitzgerald points out, it's been a long time since there's been an open House seat in the Philadelphia area—and of course, there are simply very few winnable House seats for Democrats anywhere in Pennsylvania at all. Fitzgerald thus obligingly mentions a few more potential candidates, but I'm honestly throwing up my hands at this point, since the list is getting absurdly untrackable. Once Allyson Schwartz actually decides to run for governor and we start seeing bona fide announcements, then we'll bear down hard once more.
• SC-01: There haven't been any public polls of the SC-01 special Republican primary, but perhaps this new ad from teacher Teddy Turner offers some hints at where things stand. Turner berates state Rep. Chip Limehouse as a career politician, then spends half the ad trying to defend himself from Limehouse's attacks. I don't think Limehouse is actually on the air with a negative spot of his own, but he may well have dropped some mail. But anyhow, does Turner fear Limehouse? Does Limehouse fear Turner? Why are these two in particular going after each other in such a crowded field? You've gotta think that at the very least, they wouldn't bother tangling if they didn't view each other as mutual threats.
• Electoral College: 270toWin has a great new interactive electoral college map that features a twist: You can now select how each state allocates its electoral votes, according to a variety of methods that Republicans have been trying (and mostly failing) to advance in various state legislatures. On the top map, you pick allocation methods (either for the country as a whole or for every state individually) and on the bottom map you can see how the EVs would get distributed. There are also some wild fantasy choices called "Optimal Republican" and "Optimal Democrat" which show how the two parties would do if every state awarded electoral votes according to "ideal" methods. A fun map to check out.