• Election Night: In race that wound up shockingly close, Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly held off Republican Ken Cuccinelli to become Virginia's next governor. McAuliffe eked out a 48-45 victory, even though polling averages suggested he should prevail by around 7 points. Only the unheralded student-run Emerson College Polling Society came close to predicting McAuliffe's final margin, though they gave Libertarian Robert Sarvis double the vote share he actually wound up with.
We'll undoubtedly see a great deal of introspection among (and criticism of) pollsters for their failure here, though interestingly, the polling averages were quite accurate in Virginia's two other races. Democrat Ralph Northam easily beat Republican E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor, winning 55-45; HuffPo Pollster's aggregate gave Dems a 12-point edge. The attorney general's contest was too close to call when we put the Digest to bed, with Republican Mark Obenshain up by fewer than 1,000 votes over Democrat Mark Herring, according to the AP—a perfect reflection of the dead-even average there.
So whatever went awry in the polling seemed to be confined only to the governor's race. Could there have been a "shy Tory" effect, whereby conservative voters were reluctant to admit to pollsters that their views aligned with Cuccinelli's? Many theories will abound, but whatever anyone concludes, this was a major miss by the polling establishment, and Republicans will probably be gnashing their teeth over their narrow loss.
Meanwhile, as expected, Republican Gov. Chris Christie rode to a huge win over Democrat Barbara Buono in the New Jersey governor's race, while Democrat Bill de Blasio crushed Republican Joe Lhota to become New York City's next mayor. (More on that contest below.) Christie's big victory, though, largely failed to yield coattails in the legislative races further down the ballot, with only one confirmed GOP pickup in the Assembly and none in the Senate.
Democrats also came away disappointed in Virginia, where they made few gains in the House of Delegates, though the AP differed from official sources at press time. Data from the state Board of Elections showed Dems with a net one-seat pickup (Republicans won an uncontested dark red Dem-held open seat), while the AP indicated Dems had gained two seats, with two other tight races uncalled. Frustratingly, Republicans won or were leading in as many as seven races with less than 52 percent of the vote each.
In Alabama, ex-state Sen. Bradley Byrne defeated tea partying businessman Dean Young by a 52-48 margin in the special election runoff in the state's very conservative 1st Congressional District; Byrne will easily win the special general next month to fill ex-Rep. Jo Bonner's seat. In addition to New York, Democrats also picked up mayoral seats in Greensboro, NC and St. Petersburg, FL, with the latter especially interesting since St. Pete makes up about a quarter of the swingy FL-13, where a special election will be held in March.
• KY-Sen: It's going to be a long cycle, my friends. The Mitch McConnell-linked super PAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership is going up with a $340,000 buy to air an ad criticizing Democrat Alison Grimes over Obamacare. The spot features a clip of Barack Obama saying "If you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep your plan," then rather tenuously tries to link Grimes to this statement by saying "her credibility's burned, too"—for entirely unrelated reasons. The irony is that Kentucky's being upheld as a place where the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is going quite well, so this line of attack may be weaker here than elsewhere.
• MS-Sen: The Tea Party Express is a mostly grifter-y gang of Republican consultants who had the clever idea of appropriating the "tea party" label early on, thus branding themselves appropriately to conservative donors and ensuring media coverage as a plausible face of a very disparate movement. TPX, as its often known, hasn't accomplished much, and most of what the group has raised has gone back into its founders' pockets, so the fact that they've endorsed state Sen. Chris McDaniel in his bid to unseat Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi's GOP primary really doesn't mean a whole lot.
To give you a sense of TPX's political wisdom, they endorsed Ken Cuccinelli... on Saturday. Good timing, guys.
• MT-Sen, MT-AL: Well that only took five-ever. Freshman Republican Rep. Steve Daines, who has been the establishment choice to run for Senate in Montana ever since Sen. Max Baucus announced his retirement (all the way back in April!), has finally confirmed on the record that he'll join the race, with a formal kickoff planned for Wednesday. That likely sets up a matchup with Lt. Gov. John Walsh, the Democratic front-runner, where Daines would be favored simply due to the state's GOP-leaning demographics.
Daines may yet face a more conservative challenger in the GOP primary, though. After Daines' vote in favor of ending the federal government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling, state Rep. Champ Edmunds—who'd previously said he'd defer should Daines get in—recently announced that he might stay in, to try to punish Daines for his insufficiently purist behavior. Edmunds probably isn't a serious threat, but if he keeps Daines "honest" in the primary, Walsh would benefit.
Meanwhile, this also means that Montana's lone House seat will become open for the second consecutive cycle. Democrats have united around former Baucus aide John Lewis while Republicans face a split field, mostly consisting of folks who decided to drop down from the Senate race in favor of Daines. The most prominent is probably ex-state Sen. Corey Stapleton, who finished second in last year's gubernatorial primary, though others are likely to join. Lewis could have an outside shot at an upset, especially if the GOP primary turns nasty.
• NC-Sen: In an attempt to fight back against new negative ads from the Koch brothers, the Senate Majority PAC is out with their own spot defending Dem Sen. Kay Hagan. The commercial blames Hagan's attackers for the government shutdown and calls their ads false, then pivots to tout some of the incumbents anodyne positive qualities (from a "military family," etc.). There's no word yet on the size of the buy, though presumably SMP will file a report with the FEC shortly.
• CA-Gov: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly just became the first Republican to officially launch a bid for governor, though former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and former Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari also seem likely to run. Democrats are still waiting to see whether Gov. Jerry Brown will seek re-election, though it looks like he will.
• ME-Gov: Given his weird reluctance to affirmatively say whether he'd seek re-election, and his even weirder (if brief) flirtation with a run for Congress, I wouldn't have been surprised if GOP Gov. Paul LePage had decided to retire rather than try for a second term in office. But lo and behold, LePage has finally decided to kick off his campaign, for reals, even though a consistent string of polls have shown him losing to Dem Rep. Mike Michaud next year.
• TX-Gov: PPP's new Texas poll offers tough news for Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who now trails state AG Greg Abbott, the likely Republican nominee, 50-35. In July, Abbott had a narrower 48-40 lead, though as Tom Jensen notes, PPP went into the field right after the filibuster that made Davis famous. If tea partier Debra Medina were to run as an independent (as she's been threatening), the race would get closer, but Abbott would still have a 47-37 advantage, with Medina taking 9 percent. Coincidentally, that's similar to the 46-36 lead Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has over his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.
• AR-04: Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, who'd been looking at a bid since last month, formally launched his campaign for Arkansas' 4th Congressional District on Tuesday. As we've written before, Witt is a great get for Democrats, but this will be an incredibly tough district to win, given its sharp rightward turn in recent years. Two Republicans are running, State House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman and businessman Tommy Moll.
• AZ-02: In the same piece in which he got on Jennifer Garrison's case over her same-sex marriage charade (see our OH-06 item below), Stuart Rothenberg also called out Republican congressional candidate Martha McSally for her refusal to say whether she'd have voted to end the federal government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling last month. McSally ran a closer-than-expected race against Dem Rep. Ron Barber last year, losing by less than 1 percent, and Republicans are excited about her chances in a rematch. But Rothenberg called her non-answers on the shutdown "a lot of baloney," and she'll have to do better than that if she wants to win next year.
• CA-17: Politico has an interesting piece on an unusual split in the donor community in Silicon Valley. Wealthy technology executives and venture capitalists are opening their wallets for former Commerce Department official Ro Khanna, who is a young, tech-savvy, and simply "one of them." Khanna is trying to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, a fellow Democrat, but wiser political operatives who helm the industry's PACs and trade associations are betting on the incumbent.
So, for instance, you have Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer personally contributing to Khanna's campaign while Yahoo's corporate PAC gives to Honda, who is well-regarded and is also the favorite to win, despite Khanna prodigious fundraising. Silicon Valley types like to think of themselves as being particularly bright sorts, but here, the so-called "smart money" is making a different choice.
• FL-13: Add one more Republican name to the "no, thank you" pile in the Bill Young special election: Pinellas Commissioner Karen Seel has chosen not to enter the race. But a couple of other potential GOP candidates are still sniffing around, including Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Safety Harbor Mayor Joseph Ayoub, who calls himself a "true conservative." Someone like Ayoub could stack up well against lobbyist David Jolly, a frequent donor to Democrats who is the most prominent Republican in the field so far.
• MN-01: State Sen. Carla Nelson, whom the Rochester Post-Bulletin says was "aggressively courted" by local and national GOP officials to run against Dem Rep. Tim Walz, has opted against a bid. Three Republicans are already in the race, though: state Rep. Mike Benson, businessman Jim Hagedorn, and Army vet Aaron Miller.
• NY-13: Another clergyman is considering a run in the Democratic primary for Rep. Charlie Rangel's seat: Pastor Michael Walrond, who works for Al Sharpton's organization. Rev. Calvin Butts has also been thinking about a bid, but as the linked article notes, he's earned a reputation as the "Hamlet of Harlem" for often talking about running for office but never following through. Rangel, of course, hasn't decided whether to seek another term, but the biggest benefactor if Walrond or Butts (or both) enter would be state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who nearly beat Rangel last year and who wouldn't mind seeing multiple black candidates splitting the African American vote.
• OH-06: I noticed something odd when I read Stuart Rothenberg's recent profile of Democratic ex-state Rep. Jennifer Garrison, who is running against GOP Rep. Bill Johnson in Ohio. Garrison had long been known for her conservative views, especially on the subject of gay rights, so it was a welcome development earlier this year when she announced that she'd changed her mind and come out in favor of same-sex marriage. But Garrison told Rothenberg just a week ago that she supported civil unions, an almost anachronistic notion in today's Democratic Party—and one at odds with her previous remarks.
I mentioned Garrison's earlier interview to Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report, and now Rothenberg has a follow-up piece taking Garrison to task for her shiftiness, especially since she told Roll Call in a follow-up interview that she now prefers "domestic partner benefits and some recognition by the state of those [same-sex] relationships." That's just weird. Rothenberg also notes that Garrison still faced a potential primary fight with the more liberal state Sen. Lou Gentile when she first talked to the Youngstown Vindicator about her evolution on gay marriage. Gentile since declined a bid, so now it seems like Garrison is trying to walk back her own previous statements.
And it makes Garrison look pretty awful. Not only does she look grotesquely expedient—supporting marriage equality to win a primary, but jettisoning it to win a general—but how did she not expect to get caught out for this multiple flip-floppery? Some politicians seem to have a hard time grasping the notion that when their words get recorded publicly, whether in a newspaper article, on video, or on Twitter, they're stuck with them. John McCain in particular is notorious for denying he's said things he's said. Is that who Jennifer Garrison is, a younger Buckeye version of John McCain? She has some serious rethinking to do.
• OR-04: Even though he recently became the state Republican Party chair, Art Robinson has decided to run against veteran Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio for the third straight cycle. DeFazio beat Robinson by 10 points in the GOP wave of 2010, then double that to 20 last year, so who knows what Robinson is thinking.
• Novoyork Autonomous Okrug Administrator: Comrades!
On the 5th of November, 2013 (henceforth the 15th of Brumaire, 1 ADB), the culmination of our years of indomitable struggle against the plutocratic oppressors was, at long last, achieved with historical finality! The phony Czar of the Bloombergov House of Crime has been evicted from the gilded Gracie Mansion, henceforth the Palace of the 15th of Brumaire! The puppet Lhota lies vanquished in a sea of filth and iniquity!
Vasili de Blasiovich, Chairman of the Presidium of the Democratic Workers' Party of Novoyork, General Secretary of the Citywide Committee of the Democratic Workers Party of Novoyork, First Delegate of the All-Workers Labor Congress, and Secretary-Treasurer of 32BJ—but known to his fellow workers as "Just Bill"—utterly smashed the revanchist Lhota by a 73-24 margin, as reported by the cowering toadies of the Board of Elections, who mask the near-unanimous scope of our victory as poorly as they paper over the decaying edifice of so-called Bloombergov "democracy." Journalist cadres across Novoyork report widespread tampering at the capitalist polls, in an attempt to lessen the shame of the rebuked elites. Surely the Chairman garnered no less than 98 percent support from the workers, petit bourgeoisie, and even kulaks and terrified landowners such as the Trump axis!
Far from gloating in the dawn of the Red Morning, the Chairman appeared to the throngs outside the Park Slope Young People's Revolutionary Association with characteristic reticence and self-effacement, placing all credit for our glorious accession in the hands of "the workers—who never tired, even as our Long March saw setbacks at the Battle of Battery City and the treacherous Ambush of Astoria. All power, and all responsibility, lies with the cadres of the Party. Adherence to correct thought and selfless toil will bloom chrysanthemums in the slush of December's 14th Street gutters!"
Our brothers and sisters across the Fifth Internationale have offered felicitations to the Chairman on the occasion of our triumph, with Comrade Castro of Cuba, Comrade Kim Jong-Un of the DPRK, and, of course, the greatest friend and teacher of the Party, Comrade Ortega of the FSLN, leading the vanguard. But perhaps no message was more gratefully received by the Chairman than this revolutionary musical tribute to the glorious Marxist-Leninist-Hoxhaist-deBlasiovichist victory, presented by our comrades of the Jiang Qing Conservancy of Authentic People's Expression in the People's Republic of China. We have provided a translation for those comrades who have yet to learn the common language of revolutionaries:
Red over Flushing rises the sunThe people have spoken! De Blasiovich and the Democratic Workers Party will lead us to unimaginable glory! No phony "elections" will ever again distract the masses from their unceasing socialist building! James Dolan will be dispatched for agricultural reeducation and reflection, and the People's Knickerbockers will reclaim their rightful place at the apex of athletic achievement! The intellectual parasites of the Met will never again coerce workers into a "suggested donation!" The MTA, now run on scientific socialist lines by TWU, will provide air conditioning in all stations! All praise is due to our Great Helmsman, who has led us to dizzying heights and provided the writer cades of the Novaya Kos Morning Star with unprecedented opportunity to adopt hectoring, awkward Communist tone in their dispatches! Long live Chairman de Blasiovich! Long live the Democratic Workers Party of Novoyork! (Trapper Ivan McIntyre)
Park Slope has brought forth liberation
Our Helmsman has revived Soviet kitsch
The Revolution lives in de Blasiovich
Red over Flushing rises the sun
de Blasiovich is liberation
Chairman Bill loves the people
With correct thought he instructs us gently
We cannot fail if we adhere
to the de Blasiovich line without deviation
We cannot fail if we adhere
to the de Blasiovich line without deviation
The Democratic Workers Party is like a cronut
Wherever it is baked, the people are satisfied
Wherever the Democratic Workers Party appears
There the people queue for hours to taste its teachings
Wherever the Democratic Workers Party appears
There the people queue for hours to taste its teachings
• NRSC: This is how I remember things: In 2009, the NRSC, pleased with its good fortune that a popular, moderate governor had decided to run for an open Senate seat in a swing state rather than seek re-election, went ahead and endorsed Charlie Crist in Florida. The move engendered massive backlash, helping to inspire Marco Rubio's ascendance and Crist's eventual departure from the GOP. It also left the NRSC badly burned and kept them from meddling in primaries for the next two cycles.
Which, of course, singed the NRSC to a crisp, after a series of disastrous Republican nominations handed Democrats seat after seat after seat that the GOP otherwise ought to have won. So now, predictably, the committee is saying it very well might start spending in primaries, in places like Georgia and Louisiana, to ensure that tea party nutters don't derail Republican chances yet again.
And that means we're back to where we started, with the NRSC poised to incense movement conservatives to even rasher heights of folly. The party's activist base certainly hasn't concluded that their ugly roster of losses should inspire a focus on electability. To the contrary, these sorts of voters ascribe Republican failures to insufficient conservative purity. So it's really pick-your-poison for the NRSC: let the rabble do what it wants (and suffer the consequences), or try to make the rabble do what the elites want (and suffer the consequences). I wouldn't want to be them.