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Leading Off:

CO-Gov/Sen: PPP tested just about every imaginable Republican against both Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall in their new Colorado poll, but the results don't look especially inspiring for the GOP no matter whom they put forth. First, a word from Tom Jensen on each incumbent's job approval scores:

Hickenlooper's approval rating is 53%, with 44% of voters disapproving of him. The number of voters disapproving of Hickenlooper has spiked from just 26% when we polled the state in November all the way up to 44%. His approval number is pretty steady, though, dropping from just 55% to 53%. What's happened is that a lot of Republicans and conservative leaning independents who were neutral on him during his first two years have moved into the negative column after his leadership on issues like guns and civil unions this year. Still his numbers are pretty strong.

Udall has a 50% approval rating with 33% of voters disapproving of him, the best numbers we've found for him so far since he took office. Most importantly for his reelection prospects, he's at a 50/31 spread with independents, similar to his overall numbers.

Hickenlooper had done a very good job at appearing un-partisan, but you had to figure that couldn't last forever, especially after Democrats secured complete control over the legislature in November and, as Tom alludes, were able to start advancing their agenda. The fact that Hick remains in positive territory, though, is very good news, since it undermines chicken little-type fears about the consequences of Dems holding the state government trifecta.

In any event, Democrats lead every single head-to-head matchup, and almost all of them by double digits:

Republican Hick Udall
Ex-Rep. Bob Beauprez 50-43 48-41
Rep. Cory Gardner 51-40 49-39
SoS Scott Gessler 50-40 50-37
Ex-LG Jane Norton 50-39 49-38
Treas. Walker Stapleton 49-38 50-37
AG John Suthers 49-39 50-38
Ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo 52-41 51-39
Rep. Scott Tipton 50-40 50-37
At least as important as the margins, though, is the fact that (a) both Udall and Hickenlooper are right around the 50 percent mark and (b) it doesn't matter which Republican faces them. Indeed, no one even really seems to have any idea whom the GOP will put up next year, since nobody appears to be very interested in either race. And with numbers like these, it's hard to blame them.


DE-Sen: The most notable bit of news in Abby Livingston's Delaware installment in Roll Call's ongoing Farm Team series is that not-a-witch Christine O'Donnell's former campaign manager says she isn't ruling out a return engagement in 2014. Sen. Chris Coons, of course, handily dispatched the lunatic O'Donnell after she upset establishment choice Mike Castle in the GOP primary back in 2010. (The seat is up again so soon because the race was a special election to fill the final four years of Joe Biden's term.) Of course, O'Donnell would have no hope, but she'd likely garner enough circus sideshow attention to give Coons a headache. So I suspect he'd prefer to run against a Some Dude, but at least O'Donnell would be great for raising money off of.

KY-Sen: GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell is up with yet another ad, reportedly backed by a "six figure" buy, in which, once again, he moans about mean old libruhls spying on his campaign and saying racist things about his wife. (And also, comparing him to Al Qaeda? That's a new one on me.) I mean, McConnell couldn't ask for a better set of assholes than the schmucks behind Progress Kentucky, right? How lucky for him.

Of course, Mitch certainly isn't allergic to acting like a jagoff himself. Check out this sneering, obnoxious "meme"-type graphic he posted on his own Facebook page. What a jackass.

NH-Sen/Gov: Count Ovide Lamontagne out for 2014. Last year's Republican gubernatorial nominee and, the cycle before that, Senate hopeful, is moving down to DC to become chief legal counsel at Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group. It sounds like Ovide is keeping his options open for the future (he's keeping a house in New Hampshire), but if he disappears into the Beltway for two years, he's gonna get forgotten at home. And anyhow, I don't think this sort of zealously anti-choice credential will play very well back in the Granite State.


OH-Gov: Quinnipiac has some fresh numbers on the Ohio governor's race, and the first since two prominent Democrats, Rep. Tim Ryan and ex-Rep. Betty Sutton, announced they would not run. Unsurprisingly, though, little has changed since Quinnipiac's last poll back in February—it's just far too early for numbers to move very much. GOP Gov. John Kasich still leads Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, 46-37, but that's almost identical to his 45-35 edge two months ago. It's the same story with former state AG Richard Cordray: Kasich's up 45-38, compared to 44-38. FitzGerald appears far more likely to run than Cordray at this point, but both are little known. Kasich, meanwhile, continues to sport positive job approval ratings. He's at 52-34, a major turnaround from two years ago when he stood at 30-46.


FL-13: While ultra-veteran GOP Rep. Bill Young almost defines the term "political fixture," attorney Jessica Ehrlich is going to take another shot at unseating him. Ehrlich lost 58-42 last year, but it was actually the second-weakest performance of Young's four-decade-plus career. And Ehrlich has a few things going for her. For one, as she notes, she's getting a much earlier start this time; last cycle, thanks in part to redistricting, she only entered the race with seven months to go. For another, Young is always a threat to retire, and if he does, Ehrlich would have a leg up thanks to her head start.

There's also the outside shot that a pending lawsuit based on Florida's "Fair Districts" amendments to the state constitution could shake up the lines and possibly yield a bluer seat as well. Even if that doesn't happen, FL-13 would be a hot Democratic pickup opportunity if Young were to call it quits, seeing as Obama actually carried the district, 50-49.

MN-06: Looks like things are only going to get worse for Michele Bachmann. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that her former chief of staff, Andy Parrish, "is expected to tell an Iowa Senate ethics panel that her 2012 presidential campaign made improper payments to its state chairman." Parrish had previously only been known as "Witness A," according to the committee. This investigation comes on top of the ongoing congressional ethics inquiry into Bachmann's campaign finances, which the Strib reported a day earlier appears to be widening in scope.

SC-01: Republican groups continue to abandon Mark Sanford in the wake of his admission to trespassing at his ex-wife's home in violation of their divorce agreement. On Wednesday, the NRCC announced it was cutting Sanford loose, and the Club for Growth said the same thing. On Thursday, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to none other than John Boehner, followed suit, according to Roll Call. Right now, no one wants to touch Sanford, but I'll be curious to see if the South Carolina GOP, which was responsible for part of his first TV ad, also abandons him.

Meanwhile, the exact opposite is happening on the Democratic side. Following hot on the heels of the House Majority PAC's roughly half-a-million dollar buy, the DCCC jumped in with a $205,000 expenditure of their own on behalf of Elizabeth Colbert Busch. The D-Trip's ad hits the same theme as HMP's—Sanford's abuse of office for personal gain—but takes a very different approach. Whereas HMP used wry mockery, the DCCC just flat-out whales on him. Take a look for yourself:

The black-and-white spot, with a somber voiceover and spare piano music in a minor key, features a man hiking a nature trail, a reference that hardly needs explaining. The narrator blasts Sanford, saying he "walked out on us, violated our trust—secretly used taxpayer dollars flying to Argentina, and then lied about it." Ultimately, Sanford "paid the largest ethics fine in state history" for his sins. I think national Democratic groups are scenting some real blood in the water here and are eager to go for the upset. Right now, they're outspending Republicans on the airwaves by a considerable margin, so it might just happen.

By the way, the House Majority PAC has now filed their required independent expenditure report with the FEC, and their initial television buy is for $107,000. That's a lot smaller than the $400,000 to $600,000 total run that was announced on Wednesday, but these kinds of purchases are often made in installments, so I'd expect further reports soon. Note that they're also spending $19,000 on mailers attacking Sanford, too.

P.S. This is hilarious:

Observant #wapo reader notes striking similarity between Sanford signs and Argentine flag
@ktumulty via web
And note that Sanford is indeed using a new design.

Grab Bag:

Guns: On Wednesday, gun safety legislation pushed hard by President Obama, many Democrats, and a few Republicans failed in the Senate, where 60 votes were required for passage. The most prominent piece of legislation was the so-called Manchin-Toomey amendment, which would have expanded background checks for gun buyers. Even though it secured a 54-46 majority, that wasn't enough for it to pass in the absurdist Senate. Voting against were four Democrats: Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Mark Pryor (AR). (Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted nay for procedural reasons.) Baucus, Begich, and Pryor all hail from red states and are up for re-election next year, though as many commentators have noted, huge majorities favor enhanced background checking in all polling on the topic.

On the "aye" side were four Republicans: Susan Collins (ME), Mark Kirk (IL), John McCain (AZ), and Pat Toomey (PA), one of the co-authors of the bill. Collins has to go before voters next year in a blue state, though if anything, she may have more to fear from a primary from the right than from a general election. Kirk will also face a difficult re-election in a blue state in 2016, and Chicago has for years been absolutely devastated by gun violence.

The most notable Democratic ayes came from Kay Hagan (NC) and Mary Landrieu (LA), who are both running for another term next year in very challenging states. The bill's fate was known before roll call was taken, though, so Hagan and Landrieu could have easily voted against, which suggests either that they had a lot of courage on this issue or that they think the NRA is a paper tiger when it comes to background checks. We'll find out in 2014. Several other red state Dems also voted in favor: Joe Donnelly (IN), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Jon Tester (MT), as did the amendment's other co-author, Joe Manchin (WV), and two senators who are retiring, Tim Johnson (SD) and Jay Rockefeller (WV).

House: Writing at FiveThirtyEight, Derek Willis offers an interesting take on the recent batch of first quarter fundraising reports that all federal candidates had to file. Specifically, Willis looks at which incumbents received the most money from other incumbents, viewing this metric as a proxy for how vulnerable the recipients are in terms of their re-election prospects. And it looks like it's indeed a pretty good measure, since most of the top 11 names he identifies would get slotted into a competitive category on just about anyone's race ratings list. It's certainly not a perfect system, and there are some vulnerable folks missing, but it's definitely worth considering.

At the other end of the spectrum, Kyle Trygstad takes a look at which House incumbents raised very little in the first quarter, triggering some more of the usual retirement speculation. None of the names he cites will come as a surprise, and most are in their 80s.

NY-St. Sen: Amusingly, for the first time in my life, I was called to participate in a poll last week. Quinnipiac wanted my opinions on a variety of New York state political topics, and I was more than happy to give them. For once, I was actually answering questions, not just writing about them! But now we've come full circle, because I did want to point something out about their new poll. Quinnipiac asked a very awkwardly worded question about the power-sharing arrangement in the state Senate, where five renegade Democrats have aligned with minority Republicans to hand control over to the GOP:

As you may be aware, state senate Republicans and five state senate Democrats have announced a coalition where they will share control of the New York State Senate, deciding which bills come up for a vote. Do you think this coalition leadership of the New York State Senate is a good way to create effective government or a power grab by a handful of elected officials?
I didn't like this phrasing when it was first asked back in December, because it sounded too much like, "Do you think bipartisanship is good?" And indeed, back then, "effective government" led "power grab" by a 53-30 margin. But Albany is just too much even for this tilted framing, and after months of the same old shameful corruption, New Yorkers are once again wise to the legislature, because "power grab" is now ahead 50-35. (You can guess how I answered the question.) Anyhow, that's a 28-point drop in four months, which is very sizable but, in the end, all too predictable. The only question is, does Gov. Andrew Cuomo still want to be associated with these losers?
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