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Leading Off:

MN-Gov, -Sen: It feels like it's been a while since we've had an old-fashioned in-house PPP poll to chew over—I guess their polling robots were pretty exhausted from cranking out all those numbers for MoveOn. But here we are, with a brand-new survey of Minnesota, the firm's first since May. Since then, things have tightened a bit, but the results are still good for the two Democratic incumbents seeking re-election: Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton.

First, the gubernatorial numbers. Here's how Dayton fares against the GOP field, with trendlines in parentheses:

• 48-38 vs. investment banker Scott Honour (52-34)

• 48-38 vs. state Rep. Kurt Zellers (53-35)

• 48-37 vs. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (52-34)

• 48-37 vs. ex-state Rep. Marty Seifert

• 48-37 vs. state Sen. Dave Thompson (51-35)

• 48-36 vs. state Sen. Julie Rosen (51-34)

So Dayton's declined a bit while the Republicans have all moved up, even though Dayton's job approval rating improved from 49-47 to 48-42. The Republicans are also still almost entirely unknown (Zellers, with favorables of 11-23, is the most prominent), so the race is likely to get closer still as the GOP options increase their name recognition. But as Tom Jensen notes, Dayton is very close to 50, making him hard to unseat.

There's also nothing resembling a frontrunner for the Republican nomination. In a hypothetical primary, every candidate is scrunched between 6 percent (Honour) and 12 (Zellers).

Meanwhile, Franken posts very similar numbers against his potential Republican opponents:

• 49-39 vs. St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg

• 49-38 vs. businessman Mike McFadden (51-36)

• 50-39 vs. state Rep. Jim Abeler

• 49-37 vs. state Sen. Julianne Ortman (52-35)

• 49-36 vs. bison farmer Monti Moreno

Franken's approvals have remained steady at 51-43, compared to 51-42 last time. And again, the GOP lineup is deeply obscure, with Abeler and Ortman topping out the field at 12 percent in a primary matchup. The NRSC simply hasn't given any indication they intend to seriously challenge Franken, and this poll doesn't offer them any reason to change course.


NE-Sen: "Longshot" is probably too generous a word, but at least Nebraska Democrats may land a credible candidate for next year's open seat Senate race. David Domina, described as "one of the state's most prominent trial attorneys," says he's considering a bid and hopes to decide by mid-November. "Prominent trial attorney" usually also means "personally wealthy and well-connected to other lawyers," so that's a positive for Domina, naturally. And while plaintiff's attorneys are an eternal bugbear for conservatives, Domina also has some non-partisan cred, as the state legislature once appointed him to serve as a special prosecutor in a high-profile impeachment case.

Domina would also have the advantage of being the only Democrat in the race. Republicans, by contrast, are fighting out a multi-way primary. While it's almost impossible to imagine an upset, Domina would be doing his party a service by forcing the GOP to actually campaign seriously.

NJ-Sen: Democrat Cory Booker was sworn into the Senate on Thursday, following his victory in the October special election to fill the seat of the late Frank Lautenberg. Booker replaces appointed Republican Sen. Jeff Chiesa, restoring Democrats to their full 55-member caucus. And here's an interesting stat, courtesy Bloomberg's Greg Giroux: Booker, who is vacating his post as mayor of Newark, becomes the tenth sitting U.S. senator who had previously run a city. Click through for the full list.

OR-Sen: Here's an interesting postscript about surgeon Monica Wehby, the newest entrant in the Oregon Senate GOP primary who seems kind of Some Dude-ish at first glance but, as I speculated on Tuesday, probably has connections to lots of deep-pocketed pals. It turns out she won't even have to pick up the phone to access a lot of money: Andrew Miller, the CEO of Stimson Lumber and one of the local GOP's biggest donors also happens to be Wehby's boyfriend. Miller played heavily, for instance, in the Clackamas County elections last year that put tea-flavored GOPers in charge of that county's commission—Oregon doesn't place limits on individual contributions in state-level races. (David Jarman)

TX-Sen: So I guess Ted Cruz has become a RINO squish and will soon get teabagged to death: The Texas Republican and architect of his party's disastrous government shutdown has reportedly told his colleagues that he won't help the Senate Conservatives Fund in their efforts to meddle in GOP primaries on behalf of doctrinaire but less-electable candidates. SCF has also played a role in unseating some incumbents (like former Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar), so that's probably what had Senate Republicans putting Cruz to the question.

But SCF's founder, ex-Sen. Jim DeMint, had a habit of going back on similar promises, which may explain why he abruptly resigned on Jan. 1 in order to head up the Heritage Foundation—a perch where he can muck about in primaries as much as he wants. If Cruz harbors presidential ambitions, though, he probably has to play nice... at least for now.

While we're talking about Texas Republican senators and primaries, the National Review reports that evangelical Christian historian David Barton is "seriously considering" a challenge to Sen. John Cornyn. Cornyn is extremely conservative but is also an establishment type and has occasionally ticked off purists. He also has massive sums of money at his disposal, so to have an even remote shot, Barton would need major help from his network of religious tea partiers—or maybe, say, someone like Ted Cruz, who has refused to endorse Cornyn. Just kidding! Cruz is a team player now. He swears.


IA-Gov: It's another union endorsement in the Democratic primary for state Rep. Tyler Olson, and it's a big one. The Iowa branch of AFSCME, which at 40,000 members is the state's largest union, is backing Olson over state Sen. Jack Hatch. The two are vying for the right to take on Gov. Terry Branstad, who is likely to seek re-election.

NJ-Gov: You don't need a weather man / To know which way the wind blows.


AL-01: Here's a great little Q&A that the Guardian put to Republicans Bradley Byrne and Dean Young, who are squaring off in Tuesday's special election runoff. The tea partying Young doesn't come off well at all, but the best part is at the very end, when he goes full-on, unreconstructed, hell-bent-for-leather birther:

Where was Barack Obama born?

Byrne: He was born in Hawaii and he has produced a birth certificate.

Young: That is what we call the $64,000 question! I have no idea! [When pushed for an answer:] Kenya.

Yeah! You tell it, Dean! What's been interesting, though, is that the moneyed arm of the conservative movement—groups like the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and so forth—haven't wanted to touch Young at all, even though he aligns with their views; Byrne, meanwhile, seems to be a classic pork-barreling Southern pol. That's also translated into a massive fundraising advantage for Byrne, who had $285,000 left for the stretch run versus just $33,000 for Young.

But is an upset still possible? Local Republican pollster Cygnal conducted a one-day survey (for whom, it's not clear) finding Young ahead 43-40. I'm a bit skeptical, though, because the only other public survey of the race, from dodgy pollster Wenzel Strategies, had Byrne leading 44-37. That poll was released by a conservative super PAC several weeks ago, so you'd think that if they had any better numbers to report, they'd have done so by now.

You can bet, though, that the GOP establishment badly wants Young to lose, since he'd be yet another embarrassment for them if he made it to Congress. And Byrne, who has everything going for him, simply has no excuses if he doesn't win.

FL-13: A day after flushing their endorsement of attorney Jessica Ehrlich down the memory hole, EMILY's List declared that they have always been at war with East Asia thrown their support behind former state CFO Alex Sink in the special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young. With the Democratic establishment making their preference for Sink clear, Ehrlich appears to be hunkering down to decide whether to remain in the Democratic primary. (A campaign spokesperson said she "would not be available for an interview this week.")

However, not long after EMILY's announcement, Ehrlich sent out a fundraising email with the subject line "Our campaign continues to grow!" Is she really planning to tough it out and take on Sink—and the world? Perhaps she's negotiating favorable terms for an exit strategy, like getting assurances of party assistance for a state House bid, so maybe she just doesn't want to lay down arms completely ahead of such talks.

But she'll have to decide soon, because dates for the special have now been set, and the candidate filing deadline is Nov. 19. A primary will follow on Jan. 14 of next year, with the general election taking place on March 11, when other local races will also be on the ballot in Pinellas County. What's more, Sink is already on ActBlue—and has already raised over $118,000. (I'd never really thought about it in quite this way before, but I suppose this shows ActBlue's unique level of transparency can be used as a weapon, to intimidate opponents—both Democrat and Republican—long before quarterly reports are due.)

I can certainly sympathize with Ehrlich's position—it's a sucky one to be in. But she had to know something like this might happen even before Young announced his retirement, and if I were her, I'd want to live to fight another day rather than get steamrolled. There are other good options for Ehrlich out there.

NC-12: From the moment President Obama nominated Democratic Rep. Mel Watt to head up the federal agency that oversees Fannie Mae, we speculated that Republicans might balk at confirming him. And that's exactly what happened on Thursday, as a Senate cloture vote failed 56-42 (60 votes were needed to advance Watt's nomination). For what it's worth, the White House insisted it will keep pushing Watt for the job. Maybe Ted Cruz thinks he can trade a Watt confirmation for a repeal of Obamacare.

NH-01: I'm not quite sure if this is a Scott Brown story or a Frank Guinta story. The former is hosting a fundraiser in mid-November for the latter, who is running against Dem Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. But Brown, of course, still hasn't ruled out a bid for Senate in New Hampshire... or for president in 2016. So Guinta, who raised virtually nothing last quarter, is getting some badly needed high-profile help, but from Brown's perspective, this is the kind of "friend-raising" he needs to do if he wants to establish himself in the Granite State.

Other Races:

St. Petersburg Mayor: Another poll offers Democrats some good news in this hotly contested race. An Oct. 24 St. Pete Polls survey gives Democratic ex-state Rep. Rick Kriseman a 48-43 lead over Republican incumbent Bill Foster in this officially non-partisan race. A previously released Braun Research poll conducted around the same time put Kriseman up 40-34. Both parties are spending big money in this high stakes election: A victory here would give Democrats complete control of the big city mayors' offices along Florida's Interstate 4 corridor. (Darth Jeff)

VA-LG: I'm not sure anyone cares anymore at this point, but Republican lieutenant governor candidate E.W. Jackson has just decided to outright lie about himself now. In a new interview, Jackson was asked if he ever said "that gay people live a sick lifestyle, they're sick people." Of course he has, but Jackson, suffering an apparent break with reality, simply insisted: "Never said that." Whatever, dude.

Grab Bag:

House: Nate Cohn has an interesting hypothesis about the spike in Democratic scores on the generic ballot, which he's basing on the NBC/WSJ drop from D+8 during the shutdown, to D+4 post-shutdown, and also on Democracy Corps sporting the same generic ballot in competitive GOP-held seats as they had three months ago, with no intervening during-the-shutdown poll.

It wasn't minds being changed, speculated Cohn, but just "response bias": in other words, a brief period where Republicans were too depressed to answer polls, but one that they've since gotten over. He analogizes the situation to the short-term plunge in 2012 Dem presidential numbers after the first debate; I'd also compare it to that brief period where the SC-01 polls made it look like Mark Sanford was going to lose, after the trespassing allegations came out.

That Democracy Corps poll Cohn mentions deserves a little unpacking, because it dovetails with one of my pet peeves about generic ballot polling: knowing there's a D+x number nationwide is pretty useless, because it doesn't shed any light on whether that's proportionate to what's happening in those few dozen competitive seats where House control is actually determined.

If you're familiar with D-Corps' battleground polling, they try to address that somewhat: They do subsamples in the vulnerable Dem seats (which are D+3), tier I GOP seats (R+1), and tier II GOP seats (R+12). Victoria Research is also out with a similar poll, finding an R+4 result in a mix of districts that's probably closer to D-Corps' tier II.

It's still hard to know what to do even with an R+1 number in the 24 most vulnerable GOP-held House seats, which had an average margin of R+9 in the 2012 congressional races there, though that's skewed by Shelley Capito's 39-point win in now-open WV-02. Even if you optimistically assume that R+1 means that Dems can split the difference and win half of those 24 seats, that's 12 seats, not enough to take back the majority, and you still have to factor in that D+3 in Dem-held seats probably means a handful of losses there.

D-Corps would probably direct your attention to other numbers below the toplines (especially the number of persons in GOP-held districts saying they "can't" vote to reelect their incumbent escalating from 46 percent in June to 50 percent now), but the "can't vote for" formulation doesn't seem like a good predictor of what happens next November when choosing between two actual candidates. (David Jarman)

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

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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