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Leading Off:

KY-Sen: Sen. Mitch McConnell has released the toplines of a new internal poll from Voter/Consumer Research showing him with a 68-21 lead over his GOP primary challenger, businessman Matt Bevin. Of course, the release doesn't include name recognition numbers, but Bevin's are surely quite low and will undoubtedly grow. So the question is, how confident is McConnell that his supporters will stick with him as Bevin becomes better known?

And that's assuming this survey is accurate in the first place, something I wouldn't recommend doing. VCR conducted a survey for Republican Linda Lingle in October of last year, showing her trailing Democrat Mazie Hirono in the Hawaii Senate race by just 4 percent. Hirono went on to win by 25 points. Earlier that year, they found Hirono beating Ed Case in the primary by only 1. Hirono crushed there, too, by 16.

It's not just tricky-to-poll Hawaii where VCR has misfired egregiously. As Reid Wilson reminds us, they've also been wildly off the mark in... Kentucky. Just ahead of the GOP Senate primary in 2010, VCR claimed the race between Rand Paul and Trey Grayson stood at a 40-40 tie, in a poll they did for Grayson. The following day, McConnell endorsed Grayson.

Two weeks later, Paul demolished Grayson by 23 points. So if anyone knows how wrong VCR can be in the Bluegrass State, it's definitely Mitch.

Gubernatorial:

MA-Gov: No surprise: Ex-Sen. Scott Brown is saying "bqhatevwr" to a gubernatorial bid, depriving Republicans of their best-known option in next year's race. Brown's flirtation never seemed that serious to begin with, seeing as he took a job as a FOX News analyst earlier this year (not a helpful gig in a state as blue as Massachusetts), and an even more lucrative position with a lobbying firm. Now GOP attention will shift to 2010 nominee Charlie Baker, who is still considering a second run.

Democrats, meanwhile, have also lost a candidate. State Sen. Dan Wolf is suspending his campaign—and will resign from the Senate—due to a state ethics commission ruling that says that he cannot hold or seek office as long as the small airline he owns has contracts with the state to service Boston's Logan Airport. Wolf and his supporters have argued that these contracts (which aren't negotiated because they involve fixed fees set by the federal government) don't constitute conflicts of interest, but he says he doesn't want to get mired in a court case. So unless the commission changes its mind, he's out.

VA-Gov: Democrat Terry McAuliffe must figure he's got a live one with this issue, because he's out with his third ad attacking Republican AG Ken Cuccinelli over the assistance his office gave to two energy companies that are fighting attempts by landowners to recover royalties they say they're owed.

House:

LA-05: Crikey. In the previous Digest, when we ran through the 14 candidates who qualified for the special election to replace GOP Rep. Rodney Alexander, we labeled late-filing Democrat Weldon Russell as a "Some Dude". It turns out, in fact, that he's actually a former one-term state representative. Now, Russell's period in the legislature was relatively brief, and long ago (1984-1988!), but that still raises him a notch above Some Dude. We regret the error.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Neil Riser, the GOP frontrunner, has locked down one more big establishment name. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, is headlining a DC fundraiser for him next month, and the three Louisiana congressmen who've already endorsed Riser will also participate. (James L & David Nir)

LA-06: That's strange. It seemed pretty clear that state Sen. Rick Ward switched parties this summer just so that he could run for Congress in Louisiana's open 6th District, which is decidedly Republican turf. But just three weeks after getting into the race, Ward is bailing. What's even odder is that the field here has been very slow to develop, and it's not as though some heavyweight candidate recently jumped in and shook things up. So far, only businessman Paul Dietzel is running for the GOP, though Baton Rouge City Council member Ryan Heck says he plans to as well.

Ward claims that he wants to spend "as much time as possible" with his three young children, and running for Congress would preclude that. But he didn't know that when he first hopped on this escalator? Like I say, strange.

Other Races:

CO Recall: Republicans are broadening their attacks on state Senate President John Morse in the upcoming recall election, with a new ad that complains about Morse accepting $99 per diems for legislative work on days he also engaged in personal activities. An ethics complaint against Morse over the matter two years ago was swiftly dismissed, but of course, that won't stop his opponents from making it sound like constituents have actually "paid for [his] haircuts and golf games."

There's no word on the size of the buy, but the spot is from a small group called I Am Created Equal and does not have impressive production values, so I'd guess it's not large.

SD Mayor: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner will reportedly resign on Friday, in the wake of allegations by at least 18 different women that he sexually harassed them. The city will apparently pay some or all of the damages that may be awarded in a lawsuit that has been filed against him over these accusations.

Assuming Filner does go, one consultant has gamed out possible dates for a special election and runoff. The first round would have to take place within 60-90 days of the "effective date" of Filner's resignation, with the second round 49 days later. That doesn't leave a lot of good options, due to the fall and winter holidays, though if Filner can delay his effective date, that opens up some better possibilities.

Grab Bag:

Demographics: Pew Research has been in business over 50 years, and they've put together an interesting interactive graphic spanning the last five decades of their annual population surveys. The chart compares the four major races in America and how their position has changed relative to each other, in terms of categories like voting and education.

They find that the gap between blacks and whites has narrowed over the decades in the areas of voter turnout, life expectancy, and high school completion, but that spreads have widened in terms of income, wealth, and marriage. Differences in poverty and homeownership rates haven't budged significantly over that period. (David Jarman)

Loserspeak: Nathan Gonzales offers his own gloss on what we here at Daily Kos Elections are fond of calling the "loserspeak trifecta": statements you typically only ever hear from losing campaigns that have nothing else to offer. Nathan overlaps with us on the most notorious of all—"The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day"—and adds five other new telltale remarks, like "I'm not going to accept PAC money," all of which should set your spidey sense tingling whenever you hear them.

UPDATE: The original list was so popular, Nathan added four more—and even gave a shout-out to our own SaoMagnifico for the poem he composed entirely out of loserspeak.

Polltopia: How's this for a weird headline? "Rasmussen leaves Rasmussen." Yep, Scott Rasmussen is no longer part of Rasmussen Reports, the polling outfit he founded, due "in part" to "disagreements over company business strategies," according to a company press release. But (and don't bother trying not to snicker), the firm assures us that Rasmussen's polling methodologies—"widely acknowledged as among the most accurate and reliable in the industry"—will "continue to guide and inform" the company. Thank heavens! I'd hate to lose the best comedy pollster in the business.

Pres-by-LD: We went trawling in the back end of the alphabet pond and fished up two more states: Washington and Wyoming. We're also introducing our Combined Average Performance metric, or CAP. True to its name, CAP is a simple arithmetic average of all the partisan statewide races for which we have data for any given district, legislative or congressional. (As always, you can find all of our data at this permalink.)

Summary Detailed Calculations
State CD LD (Upper) LD (Lower) CD LD (Upper) LD (Lower)
WA X X Pres.; Sen.; Gov.; Lt. Gov.; SoS; Treas.; Audit.; Atty. Gen.; Pub. Land. Comm.; Ins. Comm.; Ref. 74; Init. 502 Pres.; Sen.; Gov.; Lt. Gov.; SoS; Treas.; Audit.; Atty. Gen.; Pub. Land. Comm.; Ins. Comm.; Ref. 74; Init. 502 (coterminous)
WY X X X Pres.; Sen.; US Rep. Pres.; Sen.; US Rep. (nested)
Washington's legislature uses the same map for both chambers, with (as in other states), each legislative district (LD) electing one member to the Senate and two to the House. With 49 LDs total, there are 49 members in the Senate and 98 in the House. The median district by both Obama performance and Combined Average Performance is LD-28, a suburban/exurban swath of Pierce County that voted 54-43 for Obama and 54-45 Democratic on average across the 10 contested partisan statewide races. Obama won 34 of 49 LDs, 30 of which also sport a Democratic CAP.

While the Senate has a nominal 26-23 Democratic advantage, Republicans have functional control thanks to a coalition with two Dems who fancy themselves New York state senators: LD-35's Tim Sheldon (51-46 Obama; 51-48 Dem CAP) and LD-48's Rodney Tom (62-36 Obama; 59-41 Dem CAP). (It's perhaps worth noting that Tom's demonstrated an opportunistic streak before, having switched parties in 2006 to get elected to the Senate in the first place.) All 24 non-coalition Democrats also hail from LDs carried by Obama, with eight Republicans also holding Obama-won LDs.

One additional Democratic seat would break the current coalition, but there may be a step back before any steps forward. Ahead of this fall's special election in LD-26 (a 49-48 Obama/50-49 GOP CAP seat vacated by Democrat and now-Rep. Derek Kilmer), the oft-predictive top-two primary earlier this month returned only 45 percent for the incumbent appointed Dem. Democrats will get a second crack at this seat next year, though.

And looking ahead to 2014, both Sheldon and Tom will go before voters in 2014, though it remains to be seen whether a "primary" challenge to either could succeed given the top-two system. Dem targets for pickups may include LD-45 and LD-47, two GOP-held seats on Seattle's Eastside with clear Democratic baselines, as well as the aforementioned LD-28, to which incumbent GOP Sen. Steve O'Ban was appointed earlier this year. (LD-41, also on the Eastside, is the bluest Republican-held seat at 60-38 Obama/57-43 Dem CAP, but GOP Sen. Steve Litzow outperformed his party's average by 12 points in winning re-election in 2012, and isn't up again until 2016.)

The House, by contrast, is much less complicated: Democrats hold a solid 55-43 advantage (technically, 54-42 plus with one vacancy on each side). Of the 68 seats in Obama-won LDs, Democrats hold 53 to Republicans' 15; Democrats supplement their caucus with two members from Romney-won districts.

Finally, just for fun, we can also take a look at LD results for two key statewide ballot measures, Referendum 74 (which legalized same-sex marriage), and Initiative 502 (which essentially legalized, at the state level, marijuana). And well, what can we say? Them Seattleites love them some marriage equality and hate them some pot, at least comparatively speaking. All 15 LDs in which R-74 outpaced I-502 are in the Puget Sound area, with the three largest disparities all coming from LDs in Seattle proper. As we say, though, it's all relative: Across those 15 LDs, while R-74 averaged 67 percent Yes, I-502 still averaged a solid 63 percent Yes.

Opinion tended to be a bit more polarized on marriage than marijuana: Results on R-74 ranged from 34 percent Yes (LD-07, the rural northeastern part of the state) to 90 percent Yes (LD-43, which includes Capitol Hill, the heart of Seattle's LGBT community). There was less variation on I-502, with results ranging from 42 percent Yes (LD-15, Yakima) to 81 percent Yes (again, LD-43).

• Democrats are to the Wyoming Legislature as Republicans are to Hawaii's: few in number. Democrats hold a mere 4 seats in the 30-member Senate, and the same proportion, 8 seats, in the 60-member House. (House Districts are nested, two per Senate District.) Barack Obama got only 28 percent of the vote in Wyoming in 2012, and the median districts don't fall far from the statewide tree: 26.4 percent Obama in the Senate, and 26.0 percent Obama in the House.

Obama carried only two Senate districts (amazingly, the more Democratic of which, the Jackson Hole-based SD-17 at 55 percent Obama, is held by a Republican). Three Democrats hail from Romney districts, including a 67-30 Romney district! The picture in the House is similar: Obama carried five House districts (two of which are Republican held, including again the bluest, the 63 percent Obama HD-16, also in Jackson Hole).

The other three Democrats in the House reach deep into Romney territory, holding one as red as 68-28 Romney. The two other Democrats running statewide (for Senate and US Rep.) both lagged Obama; the Combined Average Performance tells us, more or less, the same story.

(jeffmd)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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