• LA-Gov: Political observers have long expected Sen. David Vitter to run for governor when Bobby Jindal is term-limited out in 2015, so Tuesday's announcement that he will indeed do so is an anti-climactic un-surprise. Since the seat will be open, plenty of Vitter's fellow Republicans are also likely to be interested. The list includes—but is not limited to—Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, ex-Rep. Rodney Alexander, state Treasurer John Kennedy, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who commanded the federal government's Katrina relief task force. Democrats will have a hard time competing in this red-trending state, but one intriguing option is New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Louisiana doesn't conduct traditional primaries but instead has all candidates from all parties face each other in a so-called "jungle primary," with the top two vote-getters advancing to a runoff if no one clears 50 percent. Limited early polling shows Vitter as the strongest Republican, which is due in part to his higher name recognition. Certainly he's the best-known candidate on that list we rattled off just above. But if you're most familiar with Vitter thanks to his notorious admission that he had "sinned" when the D.C. Madam scandal broke loose in 2007, you might be wondering how Vitter wound up in the pole position for such a competitive race.
Part of the answer is that Vitter chose to weather out his ordeal, knowing that his next re-election campaign was several years away. Indeed, by the time 2010 rolled around, memories of Vitter's involvement with prostitutes had faded and he cruised to re-election. But just as important is Vitter's assiduous cultivation of the Republican establishment throughout Louisiana. Head below the fold to read Marin Cogan's fascinating explanation of Vitter's ascendance:
Jindal was elected to the governor's mansion later that year , while the national press excoriated Vitter. But Vitter had already begun laying the groundwork for his ascendance in his home state. In his days as a state legislator, he had successfully pushed for term limits for legislators, forcing many of the lawmakers he had served alongside to give up their seats in 2007. Vitter began recruiting conservative candidates to replace them and helped fund campaigns through the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority (LCRM), a PAC he had co-founded a couple years earlier. He also personally reached out to Democrats in conservative districts, encouraging them to get ahead of the state's rightward turn.So Vitter not only helped oversee a changing of the guard in the legislature, but he ensured that these new cadres would be loyal to him. Vitter may seem like a guy dumb enough to get caught up in a high-profile prostitution bust, but this shows he's a whole lot savvier than many people think.
The Louisiana legislature didn't go red in 2007, but, thanks to a successful election cycle and a few high-profile Democratic defections, the House flipped in 2010. A year later, the state Senate followed suit. It was the first time Republicans controlled the legislature since Reconstruction. Scott Hobbs, a Louisiana-based political consultant, estimated that Vitter helped "at least sixty to seventy percent [of Republicans in the legislature] in some way" between 2007 and 2011. Now Baton Rouge is filled with Vitter-friendly pols, sometimes referred to as the "fiscal hawks." They've made Jindal's life a lot harder, attacking him for using accounting gimmicks to balance the state budget. Vitter has gotten in on the action too, castigating the governor for "kicking the can down the road—the sort of bad spending policy I'm constantly fighting in Washington."
Conventional wisdom chalks up Lyndon Johnson's ability to bend people to his will to his domineering style, but in reality, Johnson succeeded in getting things done because he'd done so many favors during his long career that everyone owed him. Vitter's following that path in Louisiana, and it will make him a force to be reckoned with on the campaign trail.
• OK-Sen-B: Three top Oklahoma Democrats are all saying they have no plans to run in the special election for Tom Coburn's Senate seat: ex-Rep. Dan Boren, former Lt. Gov. Jari Askins (who ran for governor in 2010), and Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby. Two other notable Dems, ex-Gov. Brad Henry and former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson, haven't spoken publicly. Former state Sen. Kenneth Corn, who lost a race for lieutenant governor in 2010, says he's considering a bid, though.
On the Republican side, The Hill reports that state House Speaker T.W. Shannon is moving ahead with an exploratory committee, according to unnamed sources.
• VA-Sen: After badly blowing Virginia's marquee races in 2012 with predictions of 5-point wins for both Mitt Romney and George Allen, Roanoke College's polling outfit probably ought to have been placed on probation. Then last year, they went screaming in the other direction, calling a 15-point victory for Terry McAuliffe (he won by 2.5 percent). That was the worst miss by far, and Roanoke should've had their license to poll suspended.
But somehow they're still at it, and their latest survey puts Democratic Sen. Mark Warner up 50-21 over "Lovely" Ed Gillespie. Could I believe a lead like that? Sure, I could. But if Roanoke is right, it's only by accident.
• CA-Gov: As expected, former Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari has entered the race for governor, joining fellow Republican Tim Donnelly, a state assemblyman. The two are theoretically trying to unseat Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who still hasn't announce his re-election plans.
• IL-Gov: It looks like spending lots of money can counteract telling other people they should want less. Billionaire Bruce Rauner, who was recently flayed by the local press for saying he wanted to cut the minimum wage, is still blanketing the airwaves and has ridden out to a 34 percent lead in the GOP primary, according to We Ask America. State Sen. Bill Brady is in second with 17 percent, while state Treasurer Dan Rutherford is at 15, and state Sen. Kirk Dillard takes just 9. In WAA's prior poll, Rauner stood at 26 percent while everyone else was pretty much where they are now, so those ads have had their intended effect. The primary is on March 18.
• MD-Gov: The Sierra Club has endorsed Del. Heather Mizeur in her quest for the Democratic nomination for Maryland's open-seat governor's race. Mizeur has trailed far behind Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and state Attorney General Doug Gansler in the few public polls we've seen, but there haven't been any fresh numbers in some time.
• NJ-Gov: The latest person to accuse Chris Christie of political intimidation tactics is none other than beloved Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, and in this case, there's a direct horserace aspect, which is why we're mentioning it here. Back in 2011, you may recall that Jersey Democrats recruited Lewis to run against a Christie ally, state Sen. Dawn Addiego, though his bid that ultimately failed to launch because a court ruled Lewis did not meet the state's residency requirements.
Prior to this, Christie was preparing to name Lewis as New Jersey's "youth fitness ambassador"—a volunteer position, but one that would have meant a paying job for Lewis' assistant. But when Lewis made his Senate bid public in early 2011, he says that Christie immediately called him and said, "If you run, we're going to have to cancel the program." Lewis refused to back down and the program was indeed cancelled. Lewis further claims that Christie "used his secretary of state and attorney general's office to get me out of the race," which is certainly true. But even if Christie had cut Addiego loose, she'd have likely pursued those same legal challenges and won.
Still, the fitness ambassadorship was nixed, and it's another black mark for Christie. And it certainly doesn't help that his latest critic is someone as respected and adored as Lewis.
• CA-11: It looks like no one wants to mess with Mark DeSaulnier. The Democratic state senator (and only declared candidate so far) just received the endorsement of Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, a day after winning the support of another potential rival, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. A handful of other names are still circulating, but DeSaulnier is now the heavy favorite to succeed retiring Rep. George Miller.
• FL-10: Democrats finally have a candidate to take on sophomore Rep. Daniel Webster: Former Eustis (pop. 19,000) City Commissioner Bill Ferree joined the race on Tuesday. Webster defeated former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings by around 3.4 percent last cycle, but it will be difficult for Democrats to get that close again.
• FL-13: The DCCC has launched their first ad in the Florida special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young, backed by that reported $200,000 buy we mentioned the other day. The spots begins with a clip of Republican David Jolly saying something he probably wishes he could un-say: "I have been a registered lobbyist, and I'm proud of the work that I've done."
The narrator then rhetorically asks if Jolly's proud of his work "lobbying for special interests that received over $3 million in taxpayer-funded earmarks," or for a firm that lobbied "for hundreds of millions for a dictator—in Pakistan." (Jolly's lobbying shop was presumably retained for both of these gigs.) And the assault is only going to get more intense, as the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC will reportedly join in next month with a $650,000 TV and mail campaign.
Meanwhile, Jolly's released an internal that has him up 43-38 over Democrat Alex Sink, with Libertarian Lucas Overby at 4. That's very similar to the 4-point Jolly margin St. Pete Polls recently found, but this survey has something else in common with that earlier poll, too: The company that conducted it, McLaughlin & Associates, sucks almost as hard as St. Pete. Here are their glorious misses from 2012 and 2013:
MA-Sen: McLaughlin: Markey (D) 47-44; actual: Markey (D) 55-45; error: +7 RSee a pattern there? And we aren't picking and choosing, either. This list covers every known McLaughlin poll taken from October (or in the case of the MA-Sen special, June) through Election Day that's been aggregated by TPM, and many more that TPM doesn't have in its database. This is one lousy firm.
CO-Pres: McLaughlin: Romney 50-46; actual: Obama 51-46; error: +9 R
IN-Pres: McLaughlin: Romney 54-41; actual: Romney 54-44; error: +3 R
IN-Sen: McLaughlin: Mourdock (R) 46-44; actual: Donnelly (D) 50-44; error: +8 R
IN-Gov: McLaughlin: Pence (R) 51-39; actual: Pence 49-47; error: +10 R
PA-Sen: McLaughlin: 46-46 tie; actual: Casey (D) 54-45; error: +9 R
RI-Sen: McLaughlin: Whitehouse (D) 49-41; actual: Whitehouse (D) 65-35; error: +22 R
VA-Pres: McLaughlin: Romney 51-44; actual: Obama 51-47; error: +11 R
VA-Sen: McLaughlin: Allen (R) 49-46; actual: Kaine (D) 53-47; error: +9 R
NY-01: McLaughlin: Altschuler (R) 48-43; actual: Bishop (D) 52-48; error: +9 R
NY-06: McLaughlin: Meng (D) 36-33; actual: Meng (D) 68-31; error: +27 R
Still, most donors aren't going to be reading analyses like these, so if the DCCC or EMILY's List has better numbers, now would be the time to share them.
• KS-03: At 54-44 Romney, GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder represents the bluest (or perhaps least red) congressional district in Kansas—one that Democrats held until Rep. Dennis Moore's retirement in 2010. Shamefully, Yoder had no Democratic opponent last cycle, but this time, at least, he's landing a legitimate challenger in the form of ex-state Sen. Kelly Kultala. Kultala, who served one term in the legislature before losing a rematch in 2012, was also the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010. Defeating Yoder will be very difficult, but at least this time, someone is stepping up to try.
• MI-01: This story about retired Army Major Gen. Jerry Cannon, the likely Democratic nominee against GOP Rep. Dan Benishek in Michigan's 1st, is just very, very weird. In short, after conducting an interview with Cannon, a reporter for a local paper says he then called Cannon the next day with some follow-up questions, including one on Obamacare. Cannon (or whoever answered the phone—more on that in a second) allegedly said, "I don't like Obamacare. It's been a disaster for me. I want to go back to the way it was before."
That's a very juicy quote, but after the paper ran it, Cannon's campaign called to say that Cannon never uttered those remarks, and that the phone was "off" when the reporter was alleged to have called. The paper (the Daily Mining Gazette) then pulled the piece and later posted an update accepting Cannon's claims. So what on earth could have happened here? What makes the least sense is that not long before this interview, Cannon expressed some positive sentiments about Obamacare, saying "the worst thing that could be done is say 'let's throw it all out.' "
There are several possibilities here, and so many strange variables to consider. Maybe Cannon (or someone else on the campaign posing as him) did answer the phone and went off-script, meaning the campaign is full of it. Maybe an over-eager reporter made up a too-good-to-be-true quote and got tripped up. Or maybe the reporter dialed the wrong number and got some wag on the other end who decided to have some fun—or just thought he was being polled! This seems like something that could be cleared up (or at least narrowed down) with some phone records, though you have to wonder why the Gazette would simply back down on Cannon's say-so. There's almost certainly more to be learned here.
• SD Mayor: A new poll of the Feb. 11 mayoral runoff in San Diego, conducted on behalf of the California Democratic Party by PPP, finds Democrat David Alvarez edging Republican Kevin Faulconer 46-45. That's very different from the numbers SurveyUSA found about a week ago, which had Faulconer up 53-37 over Alvarez.
• WA State Senate: It looks like Washington's Democratic Party, which has said it would mount a challenge to Rodney Tom—the Democratic senator who cast his lot in with the Republicans this session to give them the majority, in exchange for becoming majority leader—are seriously following through. The buzz is that Joan McBride, the former mayor of Kirkland (pop. 49,000, though only part of that is in LD-48), will announce a run this week.
That's only part of the battle, though. Given Washington's top-two primary format, a solid GOP opponent may also be necessary, in order to block Tom from surviving the primary. Even though Tom's 48th District went 62 percent for Obama in 2012, a McBride vs. Tom general election runs the risk of being a reprise of CT-Sen '06, if Tom can vacuum up all of the district's Republican votes, plus enough centrist Dem and indie votes to win. (David Jarman)
• Polarization: The Monkey Cage has been doing a month-long series on polarization, with a number of poli sci's big names weighing in. If you're interested in the big questions about how gerrymandering, self-sorting, declining ticket-splitting, and related processes all shape our current political reality, it's must-read stuff. (Although, taken together, it has a bit of a "blind men describing the elephant" quality, where everyone is fumbling around with the same subject and disagreeing about what to call different parts of it.)
In particular, I'd point you to Alan Abramowitz's article from Monday, which reprises a number of the most interesting graphics from his book, The Disappearing Center. Specifically, Abramowitz shows how much self-sorting along racial and religious lines—but not along income lines—has happened in recent decades. In fact, you might want to skip the article and proceed straight to reading all of The Disappearing Center, which is very succinct in quantifying a number of recent changes that we understand on a more instinctual level. (David Jarman)
• WATN?: How polite of the feds. They kindly waited until Republican Bob McDonnell concluded his term as governor of Virginia to indict him and his wife on charges they illegally accepted gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who wanted special treatment for his shady nutritional supplement company. The U.S. attorney was reportedly going to seek indictments last month but apparently held off at McDonnell's request. Looks like it only meant delaying the inevitable.
P.S. TPM has highlights from the McDonnell indictment. The best? "Williams discussed the idea of having Virginia government employees use Anatabloc, Star Scientific's anti-inflammatory dietary supplement, 'as a control group for research studies.' "