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Leading Off:

SC-01: Boo yeah! Sure sounds like Elizabeth Colbert Busch got the better of Mark Sanford at their lone debate on Monday night:

Sanford spoke repeatedly about his extensive efforts as governor and House member to cut wasteful spending. Colbert Busch then turned to Sanford and delivered this zinger:

"When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take the money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose."

That was a reference to Sanford's use of state funds to fly to Argentina to visit his mistress and now fiancé, an affair that derailed his political career four years ago.

"She went there, Governor Sanford," one of the debate's moderators responded.

With much of the crowd hooting and hollering, Sanford seemed shaken.

"I couldn't hear what she said… repeat it, I didn't hear," he said.

"Answer the question," Colbert Busch interjected.

"What was the question?" Sanford said, appearing stunned. "Ok, but anyway, ah ah, on the sequester, I'll go back to the sequester…"

If you're Mark Sanford, how do you not prepare to answer attacks like this? And pretending you're deaf and trying to pivot to the sequester? (You can watch the exchange at 1:45 here. There's no way he was unable to hear.) Sheesh. Really sad.

A few other SC-01-related items below the fold:

  • House Majority PAC has a new ad featuring a Republican woman who just lacerates Sanford over his affair in great detail. She says: "He skipped town to be with his mistress on Father's Day. Sanford even asked his wife for permission to have the affair and wasted taxpayer dollars on himself."
  • Democratic operative Laurin Manning, writing at South Carolina Soapbox, delves into various court documents related to Mark Sanford's divorce from Jenny Sanford. While most attention has focused on the trespassing allegations, there are a number of other sordid details. Most horrifying is that two children drowned on Mark Sanford's "Coosaw Plantation" property in separate incidents, perhaps leading to one of two child-related provisos in the Sanford divorce agreement, namely, that "the property will be insured at a reasonable level to satisfy liability claims." The other stipulation? Ah, yes, the infamous "no airplanes will be flown at children." We still have no idea what that means.
  • And finally, LOL. Wait, double LOL.

Switching gears, though, just a day earlier, I was once again dissing Mark Sanford over the fact that his fellow Republicans had abandoned him so thoroughly, but perhaps some of them are sensing he could still pull it out. Last week, a cantankerous old goldbug named Ron Paul endorsed him, but now this week, his more relevant son, Sen. Rand Paul, did the same—as did FreedomWorks, the beltway conservative group that blew apart at the seams over the winter when former chief Dick Armey departed in disgust. FreedomWorks even chipped in a tiny $7,000 on yard signs and door hangers. The anti-abortion group National Right to Life has also tacked on a few grand in mailers and fundraising calls.

Add this quartet to Gov. Nikki Haley, who is headlining an unlikely fundraiser for Sanford on Wednesday night, and you have a gang of offbeat meddlers who are perhaps laying down just enough of a marker so that they can take their share of credit if Sanford wins. I was initially very dismissive toward Haley's involvement, but viewed in a broader context, it makes a certain amount of sense, like a contrarian bet on an undervalued stock. If things doesn't pan out, you take your lumps and move on, but if you succeed, then you get to make all kinds of extravagant claims. And perhaps that risk-reward analysis is sufficiently enticing to the likes of Paul, Paul, and Haley.

Senate:

GA-Sen: It looks like Rep. Jack Kingston is set to announce his long-expected Senate bid on Thursday, which would make him the third Republican congressman to seek Georgia's open Senate seat. He could soon be joined by a fourth, since Rep. Tom Price previously said he would not decide on his own course of action before May. Reps. Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun are both already running, so there will be a ton of action to replace these guys on the House level, though it'll all be on the GOP side, since each represents a safely red district.

MA-Sen: As expected, Rep. Ed Markey handily defeated fellow Rep. Stephen Lynch in the Democratic primary for the special election to fill John Kerry's vacant Senate seat. With 95% reporting, Markey prevailed by 57-43, a spread identical to the 14-point margin PPP saw in its final poll of the race just last week. Markey will face businessman Gabriel Gomez, who defeated former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan for the GOP nomination 51-36. State Rep. Dan Winslow was a distant third with just 13 percent of the vote. The general election will take place on June 25.

MT-Sen: Man. The new kid on the GOP polling block, Harper Polling, is really going in hard with the spin on their new Montana poll. Check out their lede graf:

As expected, former Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer holds an early 4% lead over his nearest competitor in the race to fill the seat of retiring Senator Max Baucus. That's where the good news ends for Schweitzer.
So let me get this straight. Schweitzer holds a 50-40 lead over freshman Rep. Steve Daines and even manages a 47-43 edge over popular former Gov. Marc Racicot, but that's where "the good news ends"? Nice try, but that is the good news. Harper's survey is actually mostly devoted to message testing, and their writeup focuses on a parade of horribles that supposedly would sink a Schweitzer candidacy. But on guns, for instance, Schweitzer has made it adamantly clear where he differs with the national party, so Harper's insistence that "[t]he push by national Democrats to pass tough new gun control laws also puts Schweitzer in a difficult position" rings utterly hollow.

And Harper's attention to the generic ballot, where the GOP holds a 42-34 advantage, is just as misguided. There's a reason why Democrats badly want Schweitzer to run: because he's emphatically not a generic Democrat. Harper was supposedly founded to serve as a right-wing counterpart to PPP. But there's a reason why PPP has earned the level of respect it has, and that's because it's bluntly honest and doesn't engage in this kind of shilling. Harper's shown that if they've modeled themselves after anyone, it's not Tom Jensen they take after but rather Scott Rasmussen.

NH-Sen: It's finally our turn. New Hampshirites concerned about gun safety are planning to "storm" a trio of town halls being held by GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte this week. Ayotte, of course, voted against expanding background checks for gun buyers even though enormous majorities of Granite State voters support the idea, so these citizens and activists plan to "demand answers" from their senator. Two of the events took place on Tuesday, but the third is on Thursday, so if you are local and would like to attend, you can find the details at the link.

And here's a report from Ayotte's first town hall. One of the people who confronted Ayotte was Erica Lafferty, whose mother, Dawn Hochsprung, was the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary and was murdered by Adam Lanza during his rampage. Ayotte's response was deeply unimpressive:

"You had mentioned that day you voted, owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm. I am just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't more important than that," Lafferty said.

Ayotte responded: "Erica, I, certainly let me just say—I'm obviously so sorry."

"And, um, I think that ultimately when we look at what happened in Sandy Hook, I understand that's what drove this whole discussion—all of us want to make sure that doesn't happen again," Ayotte said.

Gubernatorial:

MD-Gov: Some Maryland Republican has to run for governor in the end, right? Well, state Delegate Ron George apparently figures it might as well be him. Godspeed, little buddy. (P.S. Fun fact: "He is a master goldsmith and owns Ron George Jewelers, with locations on Main Street in Annapolis and in Severna Park.")

NJ-Gov: Not taking anything for granted, GOP Gov. Chris Christie is reportedly going up with a $1.5 million ad buy starting on Wednesday. The spot itself is not available yet, but it's apparently 60 seconds long and will run though May 12.

RI-Gov: Former state Auditor Ernie Almonte has been running for governor for some time, but a new report by ABC6 (citing unnamed "sources") says that he'll soon drop down to the treasurer's race instead. Almonte himself doesn't seem to be denying it, saying "I have the experience and qualifications to be successful as either the governor or the treasurer." The main difficulty he faced in the governor's race, though, is that the other two likely candidates in the Democratic primary, current Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, are both bigger names and would probably crowd him out.

If Almonte does indeed change his mind, he could wind up battling former Treasurer Frank Caprio, who is reportedly looking at a bid for his old job, for the Democratic nomination. Caprio, you may recall, ran a disastrous campaign for governor in 2010, finishing in third place, behind both independent Lincoln Chaffee and the Republican candidate. Most infamously, Caprio told President Obama that he could "take his endorsement and shove it," after Obama declined to get involved in the race. Yow.

VA-Gov: Ohh yeah. Check it: The Washington Post reports that the FBI has opened an investigation into Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's relationship with Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who has lavished Virginia elected officials with tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts, many of which they've failed to disclose under state law. It's hard to imagine that this inquiry won't also touch on Attorney General (and GOP gubernatorial nominee) Ken Cuccinelli as well, since he, too, has close ties to Williams and has accepted many gifts himself.

House:

NY-18: It looks like a rematch is all but certain now in New York's 18th Congressional District. After saying she wasn't ruling out a comeback bid a few months back, Republican ex-Rep. Nan Hayworth has now created a new campaign committee in anticipation of another go-round with the man who beat her last fall, Rep. Sean Maloney. A spokesman adds that she's raising money as well. Hayworth is a strong get for the GOP, since she only lost by 4 percent last year and almost certainly has the highest profile of any Republican in the district. But Maloney is a strong candidate, too, as evidenced by the fact that he was able to turn out Hayworth in a pretty serious upset. This one has all the hallmarks of a race to watch.

WV-02: Former West Virginia Democratic Party chair Nick Casey announced on Tuesday that he'd seek the House seat left open by GOP Rep. Shelly Moore Capito, who is running for Senate. The move makes Casey the most prominent Democrat in the race so far, though others are considering, including Delegate Doug Skaff and Young Democrats of America President Rod Snyder.

Other Races:

NM-AG: You may remember state Auditor Hector Balderas from his run against then-Rep. Martin Heinrich in last year's Democratic primary for Senate in New Mexico. Though Balderas never had much of a chance, he never went negative and acquitted himself well enough to give himself the opportunity to keep moving upward. Now, still only 39 years old, he's taking that next step, announcing that he'll run for attorney general next year. The job is open because the current AG, Gary King, is term limited (and is running for governor in any event).

Grab Bag:

Demographics: Nate Silver and the graphics team at the New York Times have put together a neat interactive map that allows you to adjust sliders that reflect your judgments about population growth, racial voting patterns, and the effects of proposed immigration reforms to see how election outcomes might change as a result. Silver explains the thinking behind the behind the map in greater detail here.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed May 01, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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