9:05 AM PT: Special Elections: In case you missed it, Democratic Leticia Perez conceded late on Wendesday to Republican Andy Vidak, the apparent victor in California's SD-16 special election. Perez conceded after the first round in May as well, when it looked like Vidak had won an outright majority, thus obviating the need for a runoff. But late-counted mail-in ballots went heavily in Perez's favor, driving Vidak below 50 percent and forcing a one-on-one matchup. Now, Perez would need to capture 80 percent of the outstanding ballots in order to overtake Vidak, which I guess is "impossible," though of course, that's exactly what she thought the first time, too.
9:46 AM PT: NYC Mayor: Everything moves fast in New York City, especially the news. Anthony Weiner's latest sex messaging escapades first surfaced on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Marist went into the field with a new one-day poll of the Democratic primary. On Thursday, the results came back, and they're already disastrous for Congressman Formspring. A month ago, Weiner had a 25-20 lead over City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and a 52-36 favorability rating. Now, Quinn's surged back in front, 25-16, and Weiner's favorables have cratered to 30-55.
As always, you should exercise caution with any survey that's only in the field for a single day, especially at the peak of a scandal, but it's not like this is a story that can ever really get better for Weiner. Marist also shows things unfolding rather differently without Weiner in the picture. Quinn legs out to a 32-17 lead over 2009 nominee Bill Thompson, with Public Advocate Bill de Blasio at 16. By contrast, Quinnipiac (in a pre-debacle poll) found a Weiner-less race leading to a much tighter contest between Quinn and Thompson.
Again, though, Weiner has shown no signs that he might drop out, and a narrow 47-43 plurality thinks he should stay in the contest, according to Marist. But despite the white-hot levels of attention Weiner's newest scandal has received, I'm sure it still hasn't fully sunk in yet—not every Gothamite is a rabid media junkie. So I would expect things to only get worse for Weiner in subsequent polling.
P.S. On an unrelated note, here's a very cool interactive tool from the New York World that shows you where each mayoral candidate stands on almost a dozen different issues of local importance. What's great is that the World's editors don't just evaluate whether positions are for or against, but they also judge how intensely held everyone's views are and how wishy-washy each stance is, rating them on a spectrum from "vague" to "clear."
10:01 AM PT: Gah, Marist did both registered voters and likely voters... but for some bizarre reason, they led with the RV numbers and kinda buried the LVs, which matter more. So, edits to the above forthcoming.
10:36 AM PT: NYC Comptroller: Thursday brought two new polls of the comptroller's race, one from Marist and the other from Quinnipiac. The latter shows a very tight race, with ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer leading Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer by just a 49-45 margin. That's a big change from Spitzer's 48-34 lead just a week-and-a-half ago, but the shift is almost certainly due to Quinnipiac's move to a likely voter model, instead of testing registered voters.
Marist actually included results for both likely and registered voters, but while their Spitzer numbers are basically the same as Quinnipiac's, they see Stringer very differently. Among LVs, Spitzer has a 48-36 edge, and among RVs, he's up 49-32. In one sense, though, they're on the same page as Quinnipiac, since the tighter the screen, the better Stringer performs in both cases. That might mean some of Spitzer's support is fairly soft and based largely on name recognition. The question is, how much?
As long as Spitzer can keep a heavy presence on the airwaves, it may not matter. He's already out with his second ad, a gimmicky spot that I find super cheesy. But since he's self-funding, he'll likely be able to outspend Stringer, who has opted into the city's public financing system and is therefore obligated to abide by spending caps. However, there haven't been any reports yet about how much Spitzer is actually shelling out to go up on TV, so these ads may mostly be for show.
11:41 AM PT: MN-02: A new poll conducted by Victoria Research for the House Majority PAC shows GOP Rep. John Kline leading former state Rep. Mike Obermueller 45-32, numbers that suggest Kline could be in for a competitive race this cycle. Starting off five points under the 50 percent mark is not great for any incumbent, but the survey also pegs Kline at a 41-48 job approval rating, a deficit the memo says "was not evident for Kline just 10 months ago." (Note that Victoria used an excellent/good vs. only fair/poor scale, which is not my favorite approach, but "only fair" is definitely better than just "fair.")
If enough of Kline's constituents have indeed soured on him since last fall, that could indeed put him in a very tough spot. However, it's not exactly clear why his approvals should have declined, though if it really is due to GOP intransigence in Congress (the first thing that comes to mind), that would have serious ramifications for Republicans in many races, not just this one.
Obermueller certainly has his work cut out for him, though, since he's still largely unknown, with just a quarter of respondents expressing an opinion on him. He held Kline to his smallest-ever victory margin last year, but losing congressional candidates don't tend to retain too much name recognition. One big difference is that Obermueller got a very late start in 2012 and also faced a contested fight for the Democratic nomination. This time, he jumped in early, and so far no other Democrats have expressed any interest.
One thing that surprises me here are President Obama's favorables, which stand at 54-43, a rather high mark considering he won this district last year by just 0.1 percent of the vote. Unusually for an internal poll like this, though, Victoria's provided their partisan breakdowns (30 percent self-identified Democrats, 24 percent Republicans, and 46 percent independents), so we actually have an independent metric for evaluating this sample's composition.
12:28 PM PT: TX Redistricting: This is a big, Joe Biden-sized deal. In a speech on Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would aggressively use Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act to "bail in" jurisdictions with a history of discrimination against minority voters. That would require affected jurisdictions to preclear changes to voting procedures with the DoJ, just as they had under Section 5, which was recently gutted by the Supreme Court. And first on the agenda is Texas, where Holder is filing a bail-in request with a three-judge court in San Antonio that has been handling the bulk of redistricting litigation in the state.
If Holder is successful, this would strike a great blow on behalf of civil rights, and it could also pave the groundwork for stopping Texas's attempts to enforce its punitive new voter ID laws. But as Rick Hasen details, there are some big potential negative ramifications here, too. For one, this case could wind up back before the Supreme Court, which could then strike down Section 3 as unconstitutional. (Don't rule out the possibility.) More broadly, though, Holder's move is a signal that the Obama administration doesn't think that there's any hope Congress will pass a replacement for the now-invalid coverage formula that animated Section 5.
And of course, if Republicans ever take back the White House, I'm sure Ted Cruz's Justice Department won't exactly pursue Section 3 cases with vigor. But for now, this is the best we've got, so we might as well use it.
1:13 PM PT: WATN?: It looks like former Rep. Betty Sutton, who was a redistricting victim at the hands of the Ohio GOP last year, has landed on her feet. President Obama has appointed her as administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. The Saint Lawrence Seaway is (as Wikipedia puts it) the "system of locks, canals and channels that permits ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes," including, of course, Sutton's home state of Ohio on Lake Erie.
2:33 PM PT: MN-03: Judging by this post on the Star Tribune's website, it sounds like Democrats might land a truly exceptional recruit to run against GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen in Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District. Don Shelby is a former TV news anchor from Minneapolis who, according to various folks—including Rep. Collin Peterson—is considering the race. The Strib and its sources describe Shelby as "a respected Twin Cities figure with almost universal name recognition," "a very strong candidate," "a potentially game-changing candidate who does well in internal polls," and "on a 'wish list' of prospects" for the DCCC. Or as one excited Minnesota reader told me, a Shelby candidacy would be a "holy fucking shit balls" development.
I surely hope so. The 3rd is one of those suburban districts that narrowly went for Obama (50-49) but still retains considerable affection for Republicans further downballot. That includes Paulsen, who has handily won re-election twice after defeating a highly touted Democratic opponent by a wider-than-expected 7 points in 2008, when this seat last became open. It would be tremendous if Democrats could put this seat in play, and if Shelby actually decides to run, perhaps he can.
2:52 PM PT: KY-Sen: Conservative pollster Wenzel Strategies has some new numbers on the Kentucky Senate race, but their record is so janky that I really wouldn't spend a whole lot of time on this poll. But in any event, they've got GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell beating Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes 48-40 (versus 47-40 a month ago), while businessman Matt Bevin leads Grimes 35-30. So I guess that means McConnell alone is so polarizing that he adds 10 points to Grimes' share?
There's also a GOP primary test, but the sample is probably very small (there were only 624 respondents overall), so read even less into this. McConnell has a 59-20 advantage, but the newly announced Bevin is utterly unknown, and the race has only just begun. So even if you're inclined to credit this data, things are bound to change.
Forky Grimes has a new welcome video, if you're interested.
3:02 PM PT: CO Recall: We've mentioned this a bunch of times, but one thing to bear in mind about the upcoming recalls of two Democratic state senators in Colorado is that they follow California, and not Wisconsin, rules. That means two separate questions are presented to voters: First, do you want to recall Sen. John Morse/Angela Giron, and second, if yes, who should replace him or her? (Those of you with long memories will remember the awkward "No on recall/Yes on Bustamante" slogan that California Democrats unsuccessfully pushed a decade ago.)
On account of this system, one local Democrat, Sonia Negrete-Winn, says she's collecting signatures to put her name on the ballot in the 3rd Senate District, in case Giron loses on the first question. That would give recall opponents a second chance to keep this seat in Democratic hands, though I suspect that if Giron can't survive the first question, Negrete Winn is unlikely to prevail on the second one. And there's no word as to whether this is being coordinated with the Democratic Party, or whether a similar effort is underway in Morse's district.
3:11 PM PT (David Jarman): Seattle mayor: If you're wondering which of the hard-to-differentiate Seattle mayoral candidates to root for and using who labor is backing as a yardstick, well, keep wondering. Publicola has a helpful roundup of which union is backing which candidate; the various unions are split four almost equal ways, and the overarching King County Labor Council won't endorse anyone because they can't reach enough of a consensus. Incumbent Mike McGinn has gotten the bulk of the service sector unions, though (like the UFCW, which probably explains his new crusade against expansion by the non-union Whole Foods); in addition, later on Thursday McGinn got the endorsement of the Boeing Machinists, who are big players at the state level but probably don't have too many members within the city limits.
3:20 PM PT (David Jarman): Votes: Wednesday's vote on the Justin Amash amendment to limit NSA data collection activities was one of the most unusual votes in recent House memory, with both the Democratic and Republican caucuses splitting nearly down the middle instead of a straight party-line vote. We dig a little deeper into the fissures within the caucuses, finding that the vote really spotlights the normally-hidden establishment/anti-establishment breakpoints.
3:22 PM PT: AR-02: Two more Democrats say they're weighing bids against GOP Rep. Tim Griffin in Arkansas's 2nd Congressional District: Conway Mayor Tab Townsell, who has said he won't seek re-election to his current post, and former state Rep. Linda Tyler, who lost a race for state Senate last year.