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Leading Off:

TX-Sen, TX-36: Everything's bigger in Texas, including the hilarity. Monday was the 2014 filing deadline for the Lone Star State, and it passed uneventfully—until the very last minute, when big news hit: John Cornyn won't be getting a free pass in the Republican Senate primary. In fact, he's getting a challenge from a well-known name, no less, Rep. Steve Stockman. Now, between his lack of money and his frequent foot-mouth insertions (admittedly more feature than bug), Stockman isn't likely to fare well against the well-connected Cornyn, but nevertheless, this race just went from 0 to 60 in a hurry.

Stockman has pulled his TX-36 filing in order to run for Senate (since it sounds like he wouldn't be able to run, legally, for both at the same time). With that in mind, we have an unexpected open seat in the Houston-area suburban 36th, although that's too red a seat to entertain as a Democratic pickup possibility. (It gave a brutal 26 percent to Obama in 2012.) Interestingly, there are several Republicans who have filed in the 36th anyway, before learning of Stockman's last minute shenanigans; the better-known one, ex-Liberty Co. judge Phil Fitzgerald comes to the race with his own set of baggage (federal charges related to FEMA-related fraud were recently dropped against him).

Cornyn's biggest asset is that he's sitting on more than $7 million cash on hand; without outside support, and a lot of it, Stockman isn't going to be able to make a dent in Texas' numerous and expensive media markets. Nevertheless, a PPP poll from last month shows what Stockman's main asset is: the fact that 49 percent of GOP primary voters would prefer someone "more conservative," as opposed to just 33 percent who are cool with Cornyn. Stockman also lashed himself to Ted Cruz in his announcement, claiming other GOPers (like Cornyn) didn't adequately support Cruz's shutdown gambit. Cruz has explicitly not endorsed Cornyn, though an actual endorsement for Stockman doesn't seem likely either.

If for some reason Stockman does make it through the primary, this could potentially be an interesting general election, though, unfortunately, no name-brand Dems are in the field. The best-known is probably wealthy dentist David Alameel, who spent huge amounts of money in 2012 to get only 10 percent in the Democratic primary in newly-created TX-33 last year, though attorney Maxey Scherr is also running. Stockman, though, is capable of almost anything. In light of his potential to pull an upset, we're putting this contest on the big board as a Race to Watch. (David Jarman)


VA-Sen: Former RNC chair Ed Gillespie says he's considering a bid against Sen. Mark Warner, but you can count out Ken Cuccinelli, who specifically said "I'm not running" at a recent speech to party activists.


MA-Gov: Attorney General Martha Coakley may lead in the polls, but she definitely does not lead when it comes to fundraising. David Bernstein has aggregated the numbers for September through November, and among Democrats, Coakley was a distant third with just $165,000 raised, while former Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem took in $257,000 and state Treasurer Steve Grossman led the way with $455,000. (Republican Charlie Baker actually beat all comers with $580,000.) Coakley does have the second-largest bank account, but at $285,000, she's well behind Grossman's $847,000.

OR-Gov: It was never really in doubt, but Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber finally made it official on Monday that he's seeking a fourth term next year. Kitz has the distinction of being the only Oregon governor to serve non-consecutive terms. He was first elected in 1994 and re-elected four years later, but term limits precluded him from running a third straight time. Kitzhaber returned to office with another victory in 2010. Republicans do not have a top-tier challenger, and Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race as Likely Democrat.

SC-Gov: Former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer doesn't seem to understand how much his fellow South Carolina Republicans despise him, but he sure knows how to piss them off. Bauer came in an embarrassing fourth place in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary, taking just 12 percent; two years later, he got whomped 56-44 by now-Rep. Tom Rice in the runoff for the state's newly created 7th Congressional District. Now he says he's considering another bid for governor—as an independent. In response to a question about whether such a run would jeopardize the re-election chances of the woman who beat him three years ago, Gov. Nikki Haley, Bauer responded: "You don't think a third-party candidate (can) win?" Yep, clueless as ever.


NC-06: Greensboro City Councilman Zack Matheny just joined the large field of GOP hopefuls looking to succeed retiring Rep. Howard Coble. At least four other Republicans are running so far, while former UNC administrator Laura Feld is in for the Democrats.

NC-12: Former Charlotte City Councilor James "Smuggie" Mitchell, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor earlier this year, announced that he plans to join the busy Democratic primary for Rep. Mel Watt's seat. As you'll recall, Watt's nomination to head up the Federal Housing Finance Agency was thwarted by a GOP filibuster, but now that only a simple majority is needed to confirm nominees, he should sail through, possibly as soon as Tuesday. That would prompt a special election, which could take place in the middle of next year.

NE-02: I have to admit, I had a bad feeling about this one. Democrats succeeded in recruiting Omaha City Council President Pete Festersen earlier this fall after he'd previously said no to a bid against Rep. Lee Terry, convincing him to change his mind when anti-GOP sentiment was at a peak during the government shutdown. (Terry also helped by chomping down on both feet, hard.) But now that the prevailing winds have once again shifted, Festersen has changed his mind again, too, and has dropped out of the race. I guess if a candidate can be readily swayed by rising poll numbers, it shouldn't be too surprising if he jumps ship when fortunes ebb. (For what it's worth, Festersen cited family pressures.)

Anyhow, this is a frustrating blow to Democratic hopes, since Nebraska's 2nd is a potentially flippable district and Terry has shown a propensity for self-harm. But now Democrats are back to square zero when it comes to finding a challenger, because there was really no one else seriously looking when Festersen performed his first about-face. (That's why the DCCC went back to him even after he'd declined.) For a vulnerable incumbent, Lee Terry could wind up very lucky indeed.

NJ-03: According to PolitickerNJ, John Giordano, an official in Gov. Chris Christie's Department of Environmental Protection, is now the latest Republican to consider a bid for New Jersey's suddenly open 3rd Congressional District. Several others are also looking, though only state Assemblyman David Wolfe is actually running so far.

PA-13: Simon van Zuylen-Wood's new profile of ex-Rep. Marjorie Margolies in Politico Magazine is quite lengthy and, on occasion, a bit Politico-ish, natch. But it's a very interesting read, devoted to Margolies' long and complex relationship with the Clintons. Not only did Margolies famously take one for the team with her vote in favor of Bill Clinton's 1993 budget—the vote that pundits love to claim accounted for her loss the next year during the Gingrich revolution—but her son Marc also married Chelsea Clinton in 2010.

Bill is famous for repaying loyalty, but despite the family ties, a number of factors complicate matters here, including the bank fraud scandal that sent Margolies' ex-husband Ed to prison, and the fact that Hillary may not want to stick her neck out for a candidate who could very well lose next year's Democratic primary, ahead of a possible presidential bid in 2016. Indeed, a report last month that Hillary would raise money for Margolies was yanked from the Huffington Post, so the former secretary of state may indeed be reluctant. But there are many other observations and insights into Margolies' character that make the piece very much worth reading.

WI-07: Well, at least Democrats finally have a candidate to take on sophomore Rep. Sean Duffy. Ashland City Councilor Kelly Westlund, who had been looking at the race since October. Ashland is a very tiny town, though, and Westlund represents under a thousand people—fewer than live on my block. This will be a very tough seat for Democrats to crack, as highly touted ex-state Sen. Pat Kreitlow lost by 12 points last year.

Other Races:

CO Legislature: PPP has released their final batch of Colorado results, including generic legislative ballot numbers, and make no mistake, they suck for Democrats. Republicans have a 47-42 lead on the question, the first time PPP's asked it all year. However, I disagree with Tom Jensen when he says that these figures show the September recalls of two Democratic state senators "weren't an anomaly." But those were seats (the 3rd and 11th Districts) that Barack Obama won by around 20 points each. An R+5 lead on the generic ballot should not ordinarily yield wins in seats that blue (and we don't even know if that's where the generic ballot stood three months ago).

That said, Democrats hold several marginal Senate seats that are up for re-election next year—in particular the 5th (which is open), 16th, and 20th, as well as the recently vacated 19th—all of which could be vulnerable if Republicans head into election day with the kind of edge PPP sees right now. But despite the sucky outlook, the two recalls still stick out as unusual, and Democrats will have a good chance of taking back those two seats.

SD Mayor: SurveyUSA sees a big surge for Democratic City Councilman David Alvarez, who upset the better-known Nathan Fletcher in the first round of voting to face fellow Councilman Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, in the special runoff for San Diego mayor. The two finalists are neck-and-neck, with Faulconer barely edging Alvarez 47-46. Prior to the November primary, Faulconer led by a wide 51-38 margin.

That Alvarez would close the gap only makes sense, though. The top three Democratic candidates (including Alvarez) combined for 56 percent of the vote in the first round; Faulconer, the only notable Republican running, took just 42. So if you want to be glass-half-empty, you might wonder why Alvarez is "only" at 46 and still a point behind. But if you're looking at the trendlines, they're positive for Alvarez and negative for Fletcher. (Incidentally, the runoff still has not been scheduled, which is super weird, but supposedly is likely to be held in February.)

Special Elections: From Johnny Longtorso:

Kentucky SD-13: This is an open Democratic seat in Lexington. The candidates are Democrat Reggie Thomas, an attorney and college professor, Republican Michael Johnson, a minister, and independent Richard Moloney, a former member of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council.

Kentucky HD-07: This is an open Democratic seat in western Kentucky; it appears to consist of all of Union County and parts of Henderson and Daviess. The candidates are Democrat Kim Humphrey, a community affairs director for a coal company, and Republican Suzanne Miles, a staffer for Rep. Brett Guthrie.

It's also worth noting that in HD-07, longtime Democratic incumbent John Arnold won by just five votes in 2012. (This was before his sexual harassment scandal became public and led to his resignation.) SouthernINDem has more on both races.

Grab Bag:

Data: If you find yourself frequently looking up election results, then you almost certainly frequently find yourself at Dave Leip's indispensable Atlas of U.S. Presidential Election. In that case, you'll probably like this new interview Leip just gave to OpenElections about his site's history and how he goes about collecting and organizing data. It's a frustrating, time-consuming process that has a lot in common with our efforts to calculate presidential results by congressional and legislative district. Leip also concludes with a manifesto about how election authorities should publish results:

All votes are allocated to a geographic precinct (no separate absentee, provisional, or early precincts county-wide).

No geographic precincts are split between any U.S. Congressional or state legislative districts.

All precinct-level data includes write-in, over-votes, under-votes, and total ballots cast as separate figures to provide horizontal reconciliation.

The results would be stored in a standard format that could be easily combined for all states.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

Migration: It's not hard to see the "Big Sort" at work, with Americans increasingly making decisions about where to live based not on mundane 20th-century concerns like where a job or family members are located, but based on the lifestyle one would like to imagine oneself living, and the cultural and consumption-related signifiers that help people identify where they belong. You don't even need to study political and demographic data to understand it; you just need to keep your eyes open and look at details like which vehicles people are driving and which retail chains are present in a given region.

But here's something fairly new: an academic study that tries to quantify the underlying social psychology behind the Big Sort, and that starts to explain some of the mental gymnastics that people go through when they realize they're living in the "wrong" place for their politics. The authors use a number of methods to approach the problem (including a controlled experiment where students are told that the ideological composition of their university is changing), and in each method, even the entirely perceived sense of an ideological/spatial misfit increases the desire to move. (David Jarman)

NRSC: There won't be anything new to hardcore political junkies in this piece, but TPM's Tom Kludt does a nice a job rounding up every public misstep made by the NRSC this cycle, most of which involve the group's hapless spokesman, Brad Dayspring.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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