8:17 AM PT: UT-02: Utah's 2nd congressional district is one of the House's most hopeless cases (going 29% for Obama in '12, though that's a low water mark with favorite son Mitt Romney on the ballot). So, it's more than a little surprising to find that GOP freshman Chris Stewart (who grabbed this as an open seat, after Dem Jim Matheson jumped over to the slightly-less-red UT-04 after redistricting) getting a better-than-Some Dude Democratic candidate for 2014.
State Sen. Luz Robles (from SD-01 in Salt Lake City, one of five Dems in the 29-person Senate) announced on Thursday that she'll run. First elected in 2008, she doesn't seem to be up for re-election in 2014, meaning she wouldn't have to give up her current seat for a steeply uphill House run. (Stewart defeated a former Dem state Rep. Jay Seegmiller, with 62% of the vote in '12 when this was an open seat.)
10:32 AM PT: VA-Gov: Another day, another poll with a big lead for Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor's race... and this one comes from an unlikely source, Rasmussen Reports, in what's apparently their first poll (other than their daily presidential approval tracker) since Scott Rasmussen left the firm that he founded. They find T-Mac leading Ken Cuccinelli 45-38, with 7 for "another candidate" (important, since Libertarian Robert Sarvis has been polling at about that level in polls that mention him by name) and 10 unsure. That's slightly better than their early June poll, apparently their only other poll of VA-Gov, where T-Mac led 44-41.
So, is the dawning of a new, more accurate Rasmussen? Although this poll is right in line with the most recent PPP and Quinnipiac polls (which had margins of 7 and 6 respectively), it's only one data point and too early to tell anything. However, one thing buried in the details is worth noting: they used a two-day sample (Sep. 3-4). Since Rasmussen previously only used one-day samples with no callbacks, well, at least that's progress.
11:37 AM PT: OK-Gov: Here's an intriguing possibility: the return of ex-Gov. Brad Henry, the last Democrat in Oklahoma to win... well, pretty much anything. Don't start getting your hopes up too high, though, that he'll be back for another gubernatorial run in 2014, against GOP incumbent Mary Fallin: in response to urging from local Dem power brokers that he run, he says it's "unlikely" but he won't "completely rule out the possibility."
Even if he did decide to re-emerge (and it's certainly plausible; he's only 50), there's still the question of whether he's eligible to serve again. The Oklahoma state constitution was amended in 2010, his last year in office, to limit a Governor to eight years, but he contends that wouldn't apply to him since it can't be enforced retroactively.
12:20 PM PT: VA-10: Long-time Republican Rep. Frank Wolf keeps presenting a tempting target for Democrats, in that he represents outer-ring suburbs in the Washington area that are swingy at the presidential level and rapidly getting more diverse. It's always been fools gold, though (kind of like the Republicans, and, say, New Jersey), and Wolf has won comfortably even in good Democratic years. At any rate, the Dems have their willing victim lined up for next year: attorney Richard Bolger. As Roll Call's article points out, in the event of a retirement from Wolf (not expected this cycle, but he's 74, so it's bound to happen some day), Bolger's odds would improve dramatically — but the Wolf retirement would probably also prompt a flood of other Dems higher up the food chain.
12:38 PM PT: NC-Gov: Ordinarily, it'd be way too early to start talking about the 2016 North Carolina gubernatorial race, but there's been a whole lot of chatter about it in the last few weeks... which may be a good sign, if it means that people are sensing Pat McCrory's vulnerability or at least a growing desire to turn the page. Reid Wilson (now at WaPo) looks at some of the recent Dem announcements: most prominent is AG Roy Cooper, who has toyed with us on this race many times before but is doing it again, expressing his interest and saying he'll make up his mind "relatively soon."
Also popping his head up is Raleigh-area state Sen. Josh Stein, a former deputy AG to Cooper, who's saying he'll run for whichever office (Gov. or AG) that Cooper won't run for in 2016. The other name-floater is former Raleigh mayor Charles Meeker, who says he won't decide until after the 2014 elections but is definitely interested. If any of them get in, they'd join ex-state Rep. Kenneth Spaudling, who's already unequivocally in.
12:44 PM PT: NYC mayor: If you're unfamiliar with the different neighborhoods of New York City, and the demographics and voting patterns of the people who live there, the New York Times has a helpful primer. (It's also worth looking at simply if you appreciate a well-made interactive infographic that's a cut above the usual stationary map.) It measures each neighborhood's political clout in two ways: the quantity of "prime voters" and the amount of money contributed to candidates.
12:48 PM PT: NYC comptroller: Two new ads surfaced Thursday in the New York City comptroller's race, which, with Bill de Blasio's increasing dominance in the mayoral race, has taken over as the must-watch race in the Big Apple. And fittingly, the two candidates' ads go at each other hammer and tongs: Scott Stringer's ad hits Eliot Spitzer directly for the prostitution scandal that ender Spitzer's gubernatorial tenure, while Spitzer's ad does a bit of Bloomberg tie-in, hitting Stringer for opposing term limits in 2009.
12:56 PM PT: GA-Sen: Ex-SoS (and more notoriously, ex-Komen Foundation VP) Karen Handel is the first Senate contestant to hit the airwaves in the overcrowded Republican primary field; however, it's just a radio ad, running on talk radio and country music stations in the Atlanta, Athens, and Savannah markets. It hits rivals Jack Kingston, Phil Gingrey, and Paul Broun over Obamacare, not for voting for it but just for guilt-by-association, seeing as how they're federal employees and vaguely benefit from its existence.
1:07 PM PT: WI-St. Sen.: Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen won't run for re-election in 2014 to the Wisconsin State Senate, currently controlled 18-15 by the Republicans. Cullen's departure won't really affect the calculus much; SD-15, primarily in Dem-leaning Rock County, went 62% for Obama in 2012, and Asm. Andy Jorgensen seems likely to replace him. Instead, it's a chance for a bit of an upgrade, seeing as how the often-moderate Cullen was kind of wobbly for a blue district: he was the most compromise-oriented Dem member during the 2011 fight over organized labor, and briefly left the Dem caucus in 2012 for a stint as an independent.
1:15 PM PT: WATN?: The story of Richie Farmer shows how quickly one's fortune can change. In 2011, the state's Ag Commissioner was a rising star potentially on his way to the state capitol, as the GOP's Lt. Gov. nominee. However, in 2013, he's on his way to prison instead, thanks to a Thursday plea agreement on federal charges of misappropriation of public funds. (That's on top of being divorced by his wife and badly losing that 2011 race.)
1:37 PM PT: TX redistricting: The legal saga of the Texas's House and legislative districts has gotten impenetrably difficult to follow, with different issues being considered by different courts in San Antonio and Washington DC, but there are at least two important takeaways from the order handed down by the San Antonio court on Friday. One, 2014 elections can proceed as scheduled, using the maps created by the legislature in 2013 (which changed very little from the previous maps) as interim maps.
And two, the court approved an amendment to the pleadings, apparently requested after the SCOTUS rendered Voting Rights Act sec. 5 unworkable several months ago: the plaintiffs can proceed with their request that Texas be "bailed in" to preclearance, via VRA sec. 3. (Section 3 is a previously little-used provision that allows a jurisdiction to get kicked back into the preclearance regime through a showing of discrimination; it's cumbersome, but about the only remaining piece of the VRA that still has teeth.)
3:15 PM PT: Demographics: Maybe you're tired of the whole "the Republicans can/can't win by increasing their share of the white vote instead of reaching out to non-whites vote" argument; if you aren't, please check out the new magnum opus from National Journal's demographics guru Ron Brownstein. (I'm not tired of it at all, but I certainly agree with Brownstein's assessment of it as "Talmudic," to the extent that the back-and-forth between a number of writers that I like -- Sean Trende, Alan Abramowitz, Ruy Teixeira -- keeps getting more and more self-referential and technical.)
Brownstein takes issue with the GOP's plans to double-down on white voters, not just for the already-beaten-to-death issue that the white population just keeps becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of the electorate, but also because the white electorate is changing in ways that are less hospitable to Republicans. It's becoming more college-educated, more single, and more secular. (The only way it's changing in a GOP-friendly way is that it's becoming older.) There are still a few charts in his piece that leave you wondering how the Democrats manage to win anything (especially the chart showing how badly they fare among married white persons, regardless of gender or education), but in general, it shows the demographic winds at the Democrats' backs continuing to pick up.
There are some similar themes in another fascinating demographic long read, from Wednesday in the New York Times byThomas Edsall. Edsall discusses a concept called the "Second Demographic Transition," where the shift is less about race or income and more about shared values, including "postponement of marriage, greater prevalence of cohabitation and same-sex households, postponement of parenthood, sub-replacement fertility, and a higher incidence of abortion." The places where there's more movement in that "ideational" direction are also the places where Democratic votes have increasingly been concentrated (for the most part, major metropolitan areas, though also college towns: anywhere the "creative class," per Richard Florida's phrasing, is clustered).
As an illustration of his point, check out the county-by-county map that accompanied Edsall's article. You'd swear you were looking at a map of presidential results (or maybe more accurately, a map showing the trend in presidential results from, say, 1988 to 2012), but no: you're looking at a map of "Second Demographic Transition" values from county to county. (In other words, each county's rates of indicators like same-sex households, cohabiting households, percentage of women without children in the household... somehow all condensed down into one number.)
Combining that with Brownstein's observations about how there will be more singles and more seculars within the white population, and you can see the recipe for an even greater numbers of Democratic voters in the "creative class" parts of the nation. That's all well and good from the perspective of winning presidential elections -- but may also be a recipe for even more polarization and gridlock at the House level, given the growing cultural and economic disconnect between the blue voters clustered more and more tightly in the nation's urban areas and the increasingly-implacably-red voters spread out across the rest of the landscape.