• AZ-Gov: Amazingly enough, we've gone all year without a single public poll of Arizona's open-seat governor's race that features actual candidates (and something less than 50 percent undecideds). Now we finally have one, though, courtesy Republican pollster Susquehanna Polling & Research, which has typically surveyed Pennsylvania but is branching out westward. The firms finds that the crowded GOP primary is wide open, with Secretary of State Ken Bennett leading the way with 20 percent. State Treasurer Doug Ducey is second with 8, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith takes 6, businesswoman Christine Jones and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas are at 4, and state Sen. Al Melvin brings up the caboose with 2.
More interesting are the general election numbers, which find Bennett leading former Arizona Board of Regents chair Fred DuVal, the likely Democratic nominee, by only a 38-33 margin, while Ducey edges DuVal just 36-33. Of course, there are still a lot of undecideds here, but if Susquehanna is anything close to right, then the race is very much in play, which would be a delight to Democrats. One thing to note is that Susquehanna's Keystone State polling last year had a strong Republican tilt: They called the presidential race a tie and predicted Democratic Sen. Bob Casey to win by just 1 point. Of course, Barack Obama carried Pennsylvania by 5 and Casey won by 9. If they have a similar skew this cycle, that would be even better news for DuVal.
• CO-Sen: Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who is usually described as one of 2010's tea party victims, has endorsed state Rep. Amy Stephens in the GOP primary for Senate—and not Ken Buck, the insurgent who beat her for the Republican nomination more than three years ago, then narrowly lost to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. I still think an argument can be made that the flawed Norton might have screwed the pooch, too, but she'll forever be able to make the argument that Republicans had their chance to pick someone better ... which is exactly what she's trying to do with Stephens. It won't be easy, though: A PPP poll earlier this week had Buck leading 45-7.
• LA-Sen: Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is running a new ad that's all about her efforts to fix Obamacare—specifically, the legislation she introduced that would require insurers to keep offering individual plans that they've been cancelling as the insurance exchanges have opened up. While the bill is a political winner for her, I'm not so sold on how her spot presents things, since the first 10 seconds contain news clips that only remind viewers of the debacle in the first place, before even getting to Landrieu's attempt to ameliorate the problem.
The final frame is also a bit sneaky. Landrieu's bill hasn't even come up for a vote, but a caption titled "The Result:" (of Landrieu's efforts) is displayed above a newspaper headline that reads "People now allowed to keep health care plans." I can't find that headline anywhere, though the text beneath it appears to be taken from a version of this New York Times article, which the ad says also appeared in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. But the salient point is that this supposed headline refers to an executive action taken by the president and not Landrieu's legislation, which went much further. I don't know if it's a good idea to tell people something's been fixed if it hasn't been.
In any event, according to a Landrieu press release, the buy is for a sizable $250,000.
• PA-Gov: Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates don't have to file fundraising reports until Jan. 31, but wealthy businessman Tom Wolf is trying to lay down an early marker in the Democratic primary. He says he's already raised $2.9 million, from the inception of his campaign in April through Dec. 11. (The full reporting period actually goes through Dec. 31.) That doesn't include the $10 million he contributed to his campaign out his own funds.
Meanwhile, IBEW Local 98, described by reporter Thomas Fitzgerald as "one of the most politically active unions in Pennsylvania," is endorsing Rep. Allyson Schwartz for the Democratic nomination. In addition, the group is cutting her campaign a $100,000 check.
• VA-Gov: You might think we really don't need one more retrospective about the Virginia gubernatorial election, but this one, from Campaigns and Elections magazine, is worth reading, if only because it so clearly shows one area where Democrats are breaking new ground and Republicans are only starting to realize they need to play catch-up: A/B testing of campaign messages. In other words, running controlled experiments where some respondents see a particular ad theme and others see nothing, or a placebo of sorts, and then analyzing which messages actually move the polling numbers.
The results from message testing in Virginia also shed some light on what themes might have worked for Republican Ken Cuccinelli (as Democrats tested how best to inoculate Terry McAuliffe against GOP attacks). Contrary to Cuccinelli's claims that he would have won if he'd had another week to make Obamacare-based arguments, the researchers found that anti-Obamacare messaging not only didn't help Cuccinelli's case but had a small backfire effect. Hitting McAuliffe as a sleazy businessman was only slightly effective; the one weird trick that would have helped Cuccinelli significantly—but one that his campaign stayed far, far away from—was hitting McAuliffe for his alleged support of "unrestricted" (and probably more importantly, "taxpayer-funded") abortion. (David Jarman)
• MA-05: As expected, Democratic state Sen. Katherine Clark cruised to victory in the special election to fill Sen. Ed Markey's vacant House seat, defeating Republican Frank Addivinola 66-32. Clark may be sworn into Congress as early as Thursday, according to the Boston Globe. Of course, a special will now have to be held for her state Senate seat, and should a member of the state House win... you see where this is going. All because Barack Obama made John Kerry his secretary of state!
• NC-12: Roll Call's Emily Cahn has a good rundown on all the Democrats who've already filed paperwork to succeed Rep. Mel Watt, who was just confirmed to head up the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Tuesday. The dates for the special election to fill Watt's seat have not yet been set.
• TX-36: In case you missed it, the Texas Republican Party has extended the filing deadline in Steve Stockman's suddenly open 36th Congressional District until Monday, saying that state election law requires them to do so. However, incumbents (such as state legislators) who have already filed for other races will not be eligible to switch. Interestingly, three of the six Republicans who did file before the Stockman news broke say they'd gotten wind of his plans ahead of time, though the wife of one candidate actually works for Stockman, so that's hardly shocking. But the fact that Stockman managed to keep his Senate bid out of the papers until the original filing deadline is a bit surprising, given how many people apparently knew.
• CO State Senate: Local Democrats have chosen Arvada City Councilwoman Rachel Zenzinger to fill the state Senate seat left vacant by Evie Hudak, who resigned last month to forestall a recall effort. Even though the 19th District would ordinarily not have seen another election until 2016, under Colorado law, Zenzinger must go before voters next year. This seat went for Barack Obama by a relatively close 52-45 margin, so it could be competitive in 2014.
• MI Legislature: Even though Democrats dropped about 7 to 8 net points in PPP's new poll of Michigan's Senate and governor's races, their new generic legislative ballot numbers show little change. Democrats lead Republicans 46-38 on the question, just two points down from their 48-38 edge in June. However, that may not be enough to retake the legislature. In both chambers, the median seat went for Mitt Romney 50-49 while Barack Obama carried the state by 9 points. Democrats made significant gains in the state House last year (the Senate wasn't up), but that spread still wasn't enough to recapture the majority.
• NJ State Assembly: Republican Assemblyman John Amodeo has finally conceded to Democratic challenger Vincent Mazzeo following a recount (and multiple court hearings) in New Jersey's 2nd District that ultimately gave Mazzeo a 51-vote victory. The win gives Democrats their first Assembly-level foothold in the Atlantic City region since 2008 and offers a potential building block for future gains.
Meanwhile, the recount in North Jersey's 38th District is still ongoing. Democratic Assemblyman Tim Eustace's lead over Republican Joseph Scarpa shrunk from 54 to 36 votes earlier this week, following a review in Bergen County. Passaic County will recount paper ballots on Thursday, but the vast majority of the district is in Bergen, so the current tally is unlikely to change much.
• Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso recaps Tuesday night's action:
Kentucky SD-13: Democrats held onto this seat; Reggie Thomas defeated independent Richard Moloney by a 54-35 margin. Republican Michael Johnson brought up the rear with 11 percent.HD-07 is a very tough loss indeed. Democrats put a lot of resources into holding the seat, but Republicans hit back with attacks on Obamacare. Considering that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act has gone very well in Kentucky, it's somewhat worrying that these attacks may have succeeded. Ultimately, though, this is a seat that Barack Obama probably only took around 35 percent in, making this tough turf even for Kentucky Democrats. Humphrey says she'll ask for a recanvass, but that's unlikely to change the outcome. Of greater concern is that Democrats now hold just a 54-46 edge in the state House, and Republicans will gun hard next year to take control.
Kentucky HD-07: Republican Suzanne Miles picked up this seat from the Democrats, defeating Kim Humphrey by a 51-49 margin.