9:44 AM PT: DC Council: The special election for the Washington, DC city council we mentioned last week took place on Tuesday night, and as PPP forecast, DC Democratic Party chair (and nominal incumbent) Anita Bonds was the victor. Bonds, the status quo machine-type candidate, took 32 percent versus 28 percent for progressive reformer Elissa Silverman.
Silverman, though, suffered from a split in the liberal bloc, likely splitting votes with Matthew Frumin, who finished fourth with 11 percent. In between at third was Patrick Mara, the lone Republican, who took 23 percent. PPP had given Bonds a five-point edge over Silverman, so in a multi-way race with a ton of undecideds, that's not too shabby. Then again, PPP also had Mara tied with Silverman but he finished five points back of her. Still, this was a difficult race to poll, particularly given the extremely low turnout—just 10 percent.
10:18 AM PT: OH-Gov: As expected, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald formally launched his campaign against Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday. He's the first Democrat to do so, and probably the last as well, unless former state AG Richard Cordray makes an unlikely late entry. Fitz isn't particularly well-known as yet (here's a good backgrounder if you'd like to learn more), but he's held Kasich in the mid-40s in two successive Quinnipiac polls. If he can avoid a primary and raise enough money quickly, FitzGerald can take the fight directly to his opponent, something he'll need to do. Kasich, as an incumbent Republican with decent job approvals running in a red-tilting state in a midterm year, has the advantage, but this race is by no means a foregone conclusion.
10:56 AM PT: NH-Sen: It's quite a while until the 2016 elections, naturally, but it's certainly not unheard-of for politicians to pay for their mistakes many years down the line. Could voting against expanded background checks for gun buyers turn out to be just that sort of high-priced error for Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte? The early verdict, certainly, is not good news for her. Public Policy Polling finds that Ayotte's job approval has cratered by 15 net points since they last checked in on her. In October, she sported a decent 48-35 score; now, she's in negative territory at 44-46.
Of course, there could be many reasons for Ayotte's decline, but her "nay" vote on the Manchin-Toomey amendment to extend background checks to all commercial gun sales is almost definitely the highest-profile action she's taken in the last half a year. And like voters just about everywhere else, New Hampshirites strongly favor increased background checks, by a 75-21 margin. What's more, fully 50 percent say Ayotte's vote make them less likely to vote for her while just 23 percent say they're now more likely to do so.
Ayotte has to hope that ire over this vote fades with time, but it may not—this moment may wind up marking her permanently. And even though the issue won't make the same kind of headlines it has lately for the next three years straight, whoever Ayotte's opponent is in 2016 will be able to bludgeon her badly with her vote against common sense gun safety regulations that enjoy wide support.
It's conventional wisdom to say that yeah, background checks poll well but the most intense voters are those who oppose them, which is in turn why it supposedly "makes sense" for politicians in red states to vote against them. But I think that view is stale, and I think there's a real anger among many Americans over Congress's failure to act here. A senator's job approvals don't plummet 15 points in the span of a few months unless people are genuinely pissed. And Ayotte doesn't represent a red state. I suppose we'll see in a few years' time, but I think the old calculus has been upended, and I don't think this one is going away.
11:13 AM PT: TN-Sen: Some recent local press accounts have newly focused attention on a small detail buried deep in a Hollywood Reporter story from early April about the cancellation of "Judge Joe Brown," which was the second highest-rated court show on TV after "Judge Judy." Before becoming a television judge, Joe Brown was actually a real judge in Shelby County, Tennessee (home of Memphis). Brown is apparently working on some new shows now, but he told the Reporter that he's also "considering offers to get involved in politics, which could include a run for the U.S. Senate."
Now, ordinarily, a Democrat potentially running for Senate in dark red Tennessee wouldn't be a very interesting story, but Brown is quite wealthy. His show ran for 15 seasons, and he says (at least in recent years) that he'd earned $5 million a year. (He claimed he was supposed to get $20 million a year, which is why he says contract talks broke down, but his show's ratings were in decline and CBS reportedly wanted to cut his salary.) In any event, he's still got plenty of money, and while it's hard to imagine him winning, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander would definitely prefer not to face an opponent who could self-fund heavily. I suspect Brown will focus on his new shows instead and that he's not really interested in a Senate bid, but you never know.
11:35 AM PT: P.S. Ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords's new group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, is already running radio ads criticizing Ayotte for her vote (and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell as well). The two buys are reportedly for "several hundred thousand dollars."
12:37 PM PT: NH-Gov: New Hampshire, along with next-door neighbor Vermont, are the last two states in the nation where the gubernatorial term lasts just two years. (Two year terms used to be a thing in a lot of states.) That means that freshman Gov. Maggie Hassan already has to go before voters again in 2014, but the good news is that she holds wide leads against all potential GOP opponents in PPP's new poll:
• 52-38 vs. state Sen. (and ex-Rep.) Jeb BradleyHassan earns a strong 50-31 job approval rating while all of the Republicans have negative favorables. (This is essentially the same unpopular gang Tom Jensen tested against Jeanne Shaheen in the Senate race, swapping in Smith for Scott Brown. Incidentally, the gubernatorial portion of the poll was not paid for by the League of Conservation voters, as the Senate half was.) After Hassan's unexpectedly dominant 12-point win last November, I figured New Hampshire wouldn't rate very high as a potential GOP takeover target. This polling only confirms that belief.
• 51-35 vs. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas
• 53-37 vs. Executive Councilor Chris Sununu
• 54-36 vs. ex-Rep. Frank Guinta
• 52-32 vs. 2012 primary runner-up Kevin Smith
12:53 PM PT: AR-Sen: This story is very thin, but Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group founded by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, is reportedly considering a paid media campaign targeting Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor for his vote recent against expanding background checks for gun buyers. The obvious big problem with this idea, of course, is that going after Pryor would only make it more likely that a Republican even more opposed to gun safety regulation would take his place. On the other hand, perhaps this is exactly what Pryor would like: "City slickers are coming in here and trying to tell our senators how to vote (and forcing us to eat bad salsa)."
If it were up to me, I'd spend Bloomberg's billions attacking the "nay" votes of vulnerable Republicans who could someday be replaced by pro-gun safety Democrats. The problem is that there really aren't any such opportunities in next year, but like most things in politics, you need to play the long game here, and there are definitely worthwhile targets up for re-election in 2016, like Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Ron Johnson (WI).
12:59 PM PT: PA-Gov/Sen: I had wondered what Democratic ex-Rep. Joe Sestak had told donors as he raised $460,000 last quarter, considering he's refused to publicly discuss his intentions. Turns out he didn't tell them anything—and they don't much seem to care, either. The Associated Press caught up with a trio of mostly high-dollar donors, all of whom said they were happy to support Sestak regardless of whether he runs for governor next year or Senate in 2016. At this point, I'm guessing Sestak himself doesn't even know what his plans are, and it might be a while before he figures it out.
1:14 PM PT: NJ-Gov: Little change in the Jersey gubernatorial picture in Quinnipiac's latest. GOP Gov. Chris Christie still leads Democrat Barbara Buono by a huge margin, 58-26. Last month he was up 60-25. This harrowing gap isn't stopping progressive advocacy group OneNJ from dropping another $500,000 on cable ads attacking Christie's economic record, but in the expensive Garden State media market, that's not a huge sum. (OneNJ has spent $1 million in total.)
1:26 PM PT: Dark Money: Here's a potentially interesting development that could shed a lot of light on the dark money world. The New York Times reports that a "loose coalition of Democratic elected officials, shareholder activists and pension funds has flooded the Securities and Exchange Commission with calls to require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations...." Republicans and conservative groups are, predictably, trying to fight this, and there's no telling whether the SEC will actually rule in favor of such a requirement, but a preliminary decision could come by the end of this month.
1:48 PM PT: MA-Sen: Rep. Stephen Lynch is back on the air with a new ad that's entirely about the Boston Marathon bombings and doesn't mention next Tuesday's Democratic Senate primary at all. Lynch's opponent, Rep. Ed Markey, has resumed running an older spot. The two have also begun debating again, meeting in back-to-back appearances earlier this week that turned fairly hostile.
Meanwhile, Lynch has released some sketchy details of an alleged internal poll to local reporter David Bernstein. The pollster is unnamed and the field dates unclear, but the most salient fact is that Lynch still trails by six points and has weaker favorables than Markey with under a week to go. There's also the matter of the sample size—1,374—which suggests "sketchy one-day robopoll." If there were some trendlines to suggest, maybe, that Lynch was somehow surging, perhaps it would be possible to view these numbers as positive for his campaign. But there's nothing like that here, so this just looks like an "I'm not dead yet!" poll, but what is Lynch gonna do? Bite Markey to death?
1:58 PM PT: MN-Gov: Venture capitalist Scott Honour, whom we took note of last month, just became the first notable Republican to launch a campaign this cycle against Gov. Mark Dayton. It sounds like Honour may be able to self-fund a bit, given his background and the fact that he's donated $90,000 to Republican causes over the last two years, including $30,000 to the RNC.
Also, why is Mark Sanford still talking about trespassing?
"I've never said there was one son there," Sanford said.And finally, because there hasn't been enough funny Sanford-related news today, his Democratic opponent just unveiled a new group of supporters: Republicans for Elizabeth Colbert Busch. The funny part is that it's being chaired by Leslie Turner, the wife of Teddy Turner, who ran against Sanford in the GOP primary. Teddy wound up endorsing Sanford, but I'll bet he wishes he could take that back now. His wife certainly has the better idea.
In a statement earlier this month, Sanford said: "I did, indeed, watch the second half of the Super Bowl at the beach house with our 14-year-old son because as a father, I didn't think he should watch it alone."
3:29 PM PT: AZ-Gov: Democrat Fred DuVal had certainly been acting like a full-fledged candidate for some time, rolling out all sorts of endorsements and just generally moving full steam ahead. But he only officially kicked off his campaign on Wednesday, for whatever that's worth. Meanwhile, this sounds like a bit of cloud talk, but Martha McSally told a gathering of Rhode Island (?) Republicans that she's "being strongly recruited" to run for governor or senator; previously, all we'd ever heard is that she was looking at a rematch against Rep. Ron Barber in AZ-02. She says she'll "make a decision probably within six months."
3:38 PM PT: HI-01: Even though Rep. Colleen Hanabusa has yet to publicly say she's running for Senate, Honolulu City Councilmember Stanley Chang has already declared for her House seat. Chang, a Democrat, had actually filed FEC paperwork some time ago, in anticipation of (or at least, in the hope of) this turn of events coming to pass. He's also already raised over $10,000 on ActBlue.