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8:46 AM PT: Guns: Following up on their New Hampshire polling which showed GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte's job approval plummeting in the wake of her vote against expanding background checks for gun buyers, PPP checked in on five other senators in four states who also voted against the legislation, known as the Manchin-Toomey amendment. The results were pretty for no one:

State Senator Approvals Prior
Change More/Less
Likely to Vote
Support for
BG Checks
AK Mark Begich (D) 41-37 49-39 (Feb.) -6 22-39 60-35
AK Lisa Murkowski (R) 46-41 54-33 (Feb.) -16 26-39 60-35
AZ Jeff Flake (R) 32-51 45-43 (Nov.)٭ -21 19-52 70-26
NV Dean Heller (R) 44-41 47-42 (Nov.) -2 25-46 70-24
OH Rob Portman (R) 26-34 35-25 (Oct.) -18 19-36 72-21
٭ PPP tested Flake's favorability rating in November, not his job approval rating.

Of course, you could argue that post hoc doesn't necessarily mean ergo propter hoc, but the evidence that "no" votes on Manchin-Toomey have hurt opponents is starting to look awfully consistent. What's more, there's also some indication that "yes" votes may have actually helped supporters. While I wish PPP had also tested John McCain, Sherrod Brown, and Harry Reid (all of whom favored the bill, though Reid voted against it for procedural reasons), they did ask Arizona voters whether they trusted McCain or Flake more on guns; McCain wins on that score by a wide 45-24 margin. And Flake, for his part, has already made himself the most unpopular sitting senator PPP has data on.

But there's something else, too. Ayotte's senior colleague, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, voted for Manchin-Toomey, but she's seen her approvals move up over the same timeframe, from 46-39 in October (PDF) to 53-39 now. And in Quinnipiac's polling, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who lent his name to the legislation, also saw a spike in his numbers. There's also the fact that the NRA just started airing radio ads to defend Ayotte, something I doubt they'd do if they felt their once-typical supreme confidence.

Of course, except for Begich, who could lose for any number of reasons in red Alaska, none of these senators are up for re-election any time soon. But that doesn't mean this vote wasn't a mistake, and it doesn't mean there won't be consequences.

9:36 AM PT: MI-Sen: According to unnamed sources, The Hotline says that Rep. Gary Peters will launch a bid for Senate "this week." At this point, Peters is the clear choice for Democrats, and there really aren't any obvious (or even non-obvious) alternatives, so really it's just a matter of timing. Peters's campaign wouldn't confirm, but Congress is currently adjourned for a "district work period," so this week is as plausible as any.

10:23 AM PT: Charlotte Mayor: Confirming some earlier speculation, Barack Obama has indeed nominated Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as his new transportation secretary, to replace Ray LaHood. Foxx is definitely one of the brighter young Democratic stars in North Carolina politics, but it's unclear what effect this career change (assuming he's confirmed by the Senate) might have on his future. On the one hand, there have been a few politicians who held non-statewide office, were elevated to the cabinet, and then came back home to win a statewide position. On the other, a stint inside the beltway and a close association with Barack Obama may not help Foxx if he wants to seek a promotion somewhere down the line, but of course, he may not be interested in that route.

10:39 AM PT: IA-Sen: A lengthy AP story about Republican Senate recruitment woes nationwide also includes a few specifics about the situation in Iowa, where the GOP search for Plan D continues apace. The NRSC reportedly met with state Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and state Sen. Joni Ernst last week, and they're also trying to talk to former Reliant Energy CEO Mark Jacobs. In a desperation heave, they even tried to persuade Gov. Terry Branstad to jump in; unsurprisingly, he said no. (Branstad hasn't even committed to running for another term as governor.)

A separate piece in Politico reports that David Young, chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Grassley, is also putting out feelers about a potential bid. Young "declined to comment" on the matter, so count that as a non-denial.

10:49 AM PT: MD-Gov: That's certainly one way to boost your coffers. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is reportedly talking to Howard County Executive Ken Ulman about the possibility of Ulman switching gears and serving as Brown's running mate in the Democratic primary, rather than continue with his own gubernatorial ambitions. Ulman is only 38 and is a longer shot to win the nomination, so the move would make sense for him. As for Brown, he'd be able to pool Ulman's $2.1 million cash stockpile with his own $1.6 million warchest, allowing him to gain ground on state Attorney General Doug Gansler's huge $5.2 million bank account.

Brown isn't discussing this scenario publicly, but Ulman rather explicitly held the door open in a recent interview, saying "It's fair to say I'm in a process of evaluating the best way to serve a state I really love."  The Washington Post, though, notes that Ulman, who is term limited in his current job, could also run for the AG post being vacated by Gansler.

11:01 AM PT: P.S. Jeff Flake decided to compound his error by going after PPP in an interview with (blech) the Daily Caller. Tom Jensen predictably obliterates him. Good guys 1, Jeff Flake nuttin'.

11:17 AM PT: The Hill pegs an announcement for Wednesday, according to "two sources close to Peters."

12:31 PM PT: PA-Gov: Yow. These Pennsylvania polls are getting to the point where we have to hope GOP Gov. Tom Corbett doesn't wind up like former North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue (who opted against seeking a second term because her job approvals were so bad) or former Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (who got trounced in the Republican primary when he tried to run for a second term himself). Because with numbers like these from Quinnipiac, Corbett really might be tempted to bail—or an upstart might attempt to deny him renomination. Just check out the trendlines from Quinnipiac's last poll in March:

Joe Sestak (D): 48 (47)
Tom Corbett (R): 34 (38)

Allyson Schwartz (D): 47 (42)
Tom Corbett (R): 34 (39)

Rob McCord (D): 44 (38)
Tom Corbett (R): 38 (42)

Indeed, Corbett's favorability rating has sunk to an epic new low of 29-43, down disastrously from 39-44 last month. (His job approval, though, barely budged, clocking in at 38-47, versus 39-49 in March.) And Corbett's head-to-heads now resemble PPP's early March results, results that seemed a bit too good (or bad) to be true at the time. But both firms now see Corbett at around the 34 percent mark, which is so hellaciously awful for an incumbent that it's hard to comprehend.

If things don't change dramatically, the only question may be which Democrat has the honors of doing Corbett in. Quinnipiac tested a multi-way hypothetical primary, but only Schwartz and Sestak registered, each with 15 percent. No one else was higher than 3 (including McCord), so the picture remains wide open. However, only Schwartz has actually declared her candidacy, though she'd crush Corbett as hard as anyone.

12:51 PM PT: House: Relying in part on the 2012 presidential results that Daily Kos Elections calculated for all 435 congressional districts, the folks at FairVote have released updated partisanship ratings for the entire House of Representatives. You can find their complete spreadsheet with all of the data they used to compile their ratings here, and if you click around in the tabs, you'll find detailed explanations for their methodology.

1:07 PM PT: IL-13: A new potential challenger to freshman GOP Rep. Rodney Davis addressed a gathering of the Champaign County Democratic Party on Sunday night, University of Illinois physics professor George Gollin. Also in attendance was another possible candidate, Madison County Judge Ann Callis, though she did not make a speech (probably because she still sits on the bench and it might raise questions about judicial propriety). There are a couple of good quotes from Gollin in the linked article, including a reference to the fact that he and Callis are "from opposite ends of the district," but that no matter who earns the nomination, "we will come at Mr. Davis from the east and from the west and return him to private life." Also check out the last graf for a taste of what Gollin's priorities are like.

2:36 PM PT: Pittsburgh Mayor: This is unexpected. After former state Auditor Jack Wagner entered the Pittsburgh mayoral race, he quickly consolidated support and ran out to a 38-30 lead over City Councilman Bill Peduto, according to Keystone Analytics. But Keystone's new poll now has Peduto edging Wagner 38-36 in the Democratic primary. That 10 point shift is a big move, given that it took place in just three weeks, and at a time when Wagner appeared to have all the momentum. The primary is fast approaching on May 21.

3:03 PM PT: SC-01: With one week to go until the special election, Democratic groups have continued to ad to their television ad buys hammering Republican Mark Sanford. The DCCC piled on with another $215,000, while House Majority PAC contributed an additional $60,000, as well as $19,000 on mailers. However, unless HMP reports another big buy very soon, they'll likely fall short of the $400,000 to $600,000 investment the Washington Post initially reported they'd make. (Their first buy was for $107,000.) That could actually be good news for Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, though, if it means that outside groups feel they don't need to spend as much on her as originally planned.

But you can't say that Sanford isn't getting any help! Despite getting abandoned by every Republican office-holder and conservative bag man who matters, there's one politician who's lashing herself to the sinking USS Sanford: Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley, a Sanford protégé, likely owes her career to the guy, and remarkably, her close relationship with Sanford didn't seem to hurt her in the 2010 GOP primary for governor. However, it may have been a reason the general election that year was so close, and you'd think Sanford's egregious series of misdeeds would have burned up any remaining favors in his account with Haley.

But nope. Here comes Haley to headline a last-minute fundraiser for Sanford on Wednesday. If she'd abandoned her one-time mentor entirely, she could at least blame him for his own loss, assuming he goes down to defeat on Tuesday. But by extending him a helping hand, she now can't distance herself from Sanford if he loses. And even if he wins, what's the upside? "Hooray, I helped a guy the entire establishment and press despises"? Well, all I can say is that Haley may not have the sharpest political skills in the Palmetto State.

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