• NC-Sen: Even as their monthly North Carolina numbers have migrated back and forth, there's been one constant to PPP's polling: Sen. Kay Hagan has always led all of her Republican opponents. Until now, that is. For the first time ever, Hagan trails one GOP challenger, tea partying physician Greg Brannon, by a 44-43 margin. The rest of the field is also the closest its been, with Hagan narrowly edging state House Speaker Thom Tillis 44-42, Baptist pastor Mark Harris 43-41, and Some Dude Heather Grant 43-40. By comparison, she led Harris by 8, Tillis by 7, and Brannon by 6 a month ago.
Hagan's job approval rating has also sunk, to 44-49; in October, she was at 36-41, but that's down from a narrowly positive 43-39 in September. What's more, while that -5 spread was the same over the last two months, you'd much rather have 41 percent disapproving of your work than 49. Tom Jensen speculates that the botched rollout of Obamacare has hurt Hagan, in part because it's shifted negative attention to D.C. from the Republican-dominated legislature in Raleigh, whose antics have earned the GOP months of bad press.
It almost goes without saying that this is just one poll, and that we're still a year out from Election Day. But if these numbers are an accurate reflection of where the race stands today, Hagan's going to need things to change quite a bit in order to hang on.
• GA-Sen: Rep. Phil Gingrey is up with the first TV ad of the GOP primary, in which he promises to "help repeal Obamacare in my first term, or go home." I wonder if this kind of extreme pledge will catch on among Republicans more generally, seeing as they've now tried and failed to eliminate the Affordable Care Act over 40 hopeless times. Emily Cahn reports that the spot is backed by "a six-figure buy to run for 10 days in Georgia's four largest media markets."
• KY-Sen: A new Lake Research poll for MoveOn shows some pretty odd results in Kentucky, where Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is tied with Democrat Alison Grimes at 37 apiece. It's not the closeness of the head-to-heads that stands out—PPP, for instance, has found the race tight—but rather the extremely high proportion of undecided voters.
What's also unusual is that a Lake survey from August found Grimes ahead 46-40, so did both candidates really lose ground since then? That's almost impossible to believe, though I'd note that the two polls seemed to use very different methodologies and may not be directly comparable. The MoveOn poll seems to be a traditional poll, contacting 603 likely voters over six days. The earlier poll, for the Public Campaign Action Fund, was in the field for 11 days and covered an extremely large pool of 5,000 registered voters. But that just makes things weirder, because you'd expect fewer undecideds among likely voters than registered voters.
• MI-Sen: It looks like the Republican establishment has finally made peace with the fact that it's not going to do any better than former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. The NRSC is hosting a D.C. fundraiser for Land next week, featuring a bunch of luminaries like Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. Perhaps it means the NRSC is taking this race seriously, or perhaps they just don't want to write it off so soon.
• MS-Sen: Veteran GOP Sen. Thad Cochran, who has kept the Mississippi political establishment waiting all cycle, says he'll finally decide whether he'll seek another term by the end of this month. Cochran already faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel, but if he retires, then a whole bunch of other Republicans are likely to jump in as well.
• MT-Sen: It was pretty predictable what kind of campaign former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger would run in the Democratic primary for Senate, but now he's made it clear. Reacting to the DSCC (and Sen. Jon Tester) endorsing current Lt. Gov John Walsh for the party's nomination, Bohlinger says: "It's the people of the state of Montana who will choose the next Democratic Senatorial candidate, not the political insiders in Washington, D.C."
• ME-Gov: PPP's new Maine poll is pretty similar to their prior survey, with Dem Rep. Mike Michaud at 38, GOP Gov. Paul LePage at 36, and independent Eliot Cutler at 15. Back in August, it was Michaud 39, LePage 35, Cutler 18. Even though Michaud's lead over LePage is 2 points versus 4 (an almost negligible change, this far out), his biggest threat comes from the left-leaning Cutler, so if his fade continues, Democrats will have reason to be quite happy.
• MN-Gov: Former state Rep. Marty Seifert, who narrowly lost out on the Republican gubernatorial nomination to Tom Emmer at the state party convention in 2010, will reportedly try again next year. This time around, he'd join a very crowded field that includes Hennepin County commissioner Jeff Johnson, state Sen. Dave Thompson, state Rep. Kurt Zellers, and businessman Scott Honour. And the nomination is not likely to be decided at the convention, as both Zellers and Honour have said they plan to run in the primary if they don't earn the official GOP endorsement.
• OH-Gov: Here's that poll for the Ohio Democratic Party that PPP teased late last week. Nothing we didn't already know from PPP's tweets, though: Gov. John Kasich is tied at 41 with his Democratic challenger, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, while state Rep. Connie Pillich beats Republican incumbent Josh Mandel 47-43 in the state treasurer's race. You may remember that PPP's prior poll, from August, had some weird numbers, with Fitz leading Kasich 38-35 and Pillich up 40-35 on Mandel. These latest results seem more plausible, though Kasich at 41 is still awfully low.
• PA-Gov: Republican pollster Harper Polling has a new survey of the Democratic primary field looking to take on GOP Gov. Tom Corbett next year. As pretty much everyone else has, they find Rep. Allyson Schwartz leading, though not by much. Schwartz takes 22 percent versus 15 for former state environmental chief Katie McGinty. State Treasurer Rob McCord is at 12, while former state environmental chief John Hager is at 7, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawloski is at 6, and businessman Tom Wolf brings up the rear with 5. Not only is this Schwartz's smallest edge ever, but Harper has the race much closer than even McGinty did in an August internal that put Schwartz up 25-6.
Meanwhile, Republican hopes of finding a replacement for Corbett seem to have officially died. Three former GOP governors—Dick Thornburgh, Tom Ridge, and Mark Schweiker—all formally endorsed the embattled Corbett's re-election campaign on Tuesday.
• VA-Gov: Some comical conservative misunderstandings over the population density of Virginia counties have yielded a positive result: a new spate of attention to cartograms, a type of map that, by deliberately deforming geographic features, can more accurately show the relative populations of each component jurisdiction. Analyst Mark Newman has produced some well-known examples for recent presidential elections, which combat the distorting effect of sparsely populated states that, at a glance, show a sea of red every four years.
Cartographers have now also created such maps for the recently concluded Virginia gubernatorial election, which help illustrate the growing influence of the state's blue-trending northern reaches and explain why Democrat Terry McAuliffe was able to keep Republican Ken Cuccinelli at bay. Here, for instance, is a very helpful cartogram from University of Mary Washington professors Stephen Farnsworth and Stephen Hanna:
Meanwhile, Larry Sabato and company took a somewhat different approach, but ultimately, their cartogram shows the same things as UMW's:
• TX-23: Roll Call's Abby Livingston offers an interesting look at one of the quietest comeback campaigns imaginable, that of ex-Rep. Quico Canseco, who has raised almost bupkes and has been invisible on the campaign trail despite filing to run again almost a year ago. Canseco is hoping to win back his seat from freshman Dem Rep. Pete Gallego, but first he has to beat former CIA agent Will Hurd in the GOP primary. Hurd's fundraising has been unimpressive, though, and Canseco has personal wealth he can tap at any time, so perhaps that explains his slow start, though he only narrowly beat Hurd in the 2010 GOP runoff.
And there's one tidbit at the end of Livingston's piece that should really worry Canseco: According to an unnamed source, the NRCC is still recruiting for this race, which would mean, of course, that they're not enamored of Canseco. I wonder, for instance, whatever happened to Public Utility Commissioner Rolando Pablos, whose name was mentioned back in January. Anyone heard from him lately?
• VA-AG: If you're following the recanvass, you've probably already seen that (as of Tuesday), the State Board of Elections has processed all the latest tallies and given Democrat Mark Herring a 117-vote lead over Republican Mark Obenshain. That's extremely close to the 115-vote edge that Dave Wasserman predicted on Monday, after the city of Richmond certified its results. Meanwhile, Fairfax County counted their remaining provisional ballots (likely to favor Herring) on Tuesday, but we haven't seen any updates from them yet.
• Campaign Finance: If you're wondering where all of the money that funds campaigns comes from, the Sunlight Foundation has a helpful interactive map that covers that, county-by-county, for each two-year election cycle going back to 1990. Unfortunately, it's color-coded according to total amount of contributions instead of contributions per capita, so naturally, it tells you that more dollars came out of Los Angeles County than, say, Loving Co., TX. (It does, however, tell you the dollar amount in each county, so you can mouse over each one and perform the number-crunching yourself.)
Of the top eight counties dollar-wise, the only outliers, relative to population, seem to be Fairfield County, CT (which has a lot of Wall Street wealth), Palm Beach County, FL (rich retirees), and Clark County, NV (which seems to be largely because of conservative casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, perhaps the largest individual donor in 2012). (David Jarman)