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Leading Off:

FL-Gov: According to PPP's new Florida poll, the race for governor just got a whole lot tighter. PPP now has ex-Gov. Charlie Crist edging GOP incumbent Rick Scott by just a 43-41 margin, down from 50-38 in September. What's changed since then is that Crist officially declared his entry into the race and Scott started hammering him with negative ads, driving down Crist's favorables from 43-42 to 36-46. Meanwhile, Republicans have started rallying around Scott. All of this is as you'd expect—it just took a while to get set started, and these developments certainly show that Crist was right to wait as long as he reasonably could before joining the race.

The problem is that Scott has infinity money and quite a lot of time left on the clock, so he can keep pushing this trend forward. Crist will definitely be outgunned, and while his fundraising has been strong enough that he'll be able to fight back, he can't really start spending big now. Crist has to hope that Scott, like Meg Whitman in the 2010 California governor's race, ultimately hits a wall with his free-spending ways, giving Crist a chance to get his message out in the final phase of the campaign. Fortunately, Scott's still quite unpopular—his job approval stands at 34-51, not too different from his 33-55 mark last time—so Crist may yet get his shot.

P.S. PPP also has early numbers on the attorney general's race, where it looks like Republican incumbent Pam Bondi could face a competitive battle for re-election. She leads Democrats George Sheldon and Perry Thurston 37-34 and 37-35, respectively.

4Q Fundraising:

MS-Sen: Chris McDaniel (R): $500,000 raised, $350,000 cash-on-hand

OR-Sen: Jason Conger (R): "Conger said in a fundraising invitation that he had raised $200,000 but in an interview Tuesday he said he didn't know if that total covered the last quarter of 2013 or the amount he has raised until now."

PA-Gov: Tom Corbett (R-inc): $6.8 million raised (in 2013), $7.5 million cash-on-hand

CA-15: Eric Swalwell (D-inc): $270,000 raised

Senate:

KY-Sen: Never mind that whole trying to repeal Obamacare thing, because Mitch McConnell would like you to know that he's actually a big fan of helping sick workers. His new ad (running in both 30- and 60-second versions, with a "six figures" buy statewide) features a testimonial from a man who had throat cancer who benefited from McConnell-backed cancer screening efforts. Democrat Alison Grimes' campaign pointed out, however, that McConnell is not only recycling this ad from his 2008 campaign (using the same worker), but also that he took years to take any action to help workers sickened at the Superfund site where his endorser was employed.

McConnell may be playing the faux-compassion card a little too early in the game, though, because he still has to get through a primary with a tea partier, Matt Bevin, before he can face off against Grimes in the general. Further complicating matters, FreedomWorks endorsed Bevin on Tuesday. Now FreedomWorks' endorsements have often been worth about as much as the paper they aren't even printed on, but in this case, they're saying they may spend as much as $500,000 on Bevin's behalf. Given that Bevin can self-fund, too, he won't lack for money in his primary challenge. (David Jarman)

MT-Sen: The Senate will hold a confirmation hearing on Sen. Max Baucus' nomination as ambassador to China on Tuesday, meaning that Gov. Steve Bullock will soon need to tap a replacement for the incumbent. (Baucus is a lock for confirmation, especially in these post-filibuster days.) Bullock's been tight-lipped about whom he might appoint, but Lt. Gov. John Walsh, who is already running to succeed Baucus, is a very plausible option. If that happens, Walsh's primary opponent, ex-Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, says he'll "give serious thought to withdrawing from the race" because he thinks it would be "almost impossible to win" under such circumstances.

NE-Sen: As he swivels to-and-fro in an office chair, Republican Ben Sasse brags that he's "one of the few, it seems, who read and studied Obamacare's 2,300 pages" in a new TV ad. The spot then features a National Review cover touting Sasse as "Nebraska's Obamacare nemesis." Sasse's campaign isn't divulging the size of the buy.

Gubernatorial:

MA-Gov: MassINC's new poll of the Massachusetts governor's race is definitely weird. State Attorney General Martha Coakley is beating 2010 GOP nominee Charlie Baker by 10 points, which seems reasonable, but her margin is just 39-29, so there are a lot of undecideds. The matchups with other Democrats get even crazier on the undecided front, though. Baker leads state Treasurer Steve Grossman 33-23, former Medicare administrator Don Berwick 36-13, former Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem 37-15, and pharma exec Joe Avellone 36-13. Suffice it to say that no one will be pulling in the teens on Election Day.

MD-Gov: Despite flirting with a late bid for governor, Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger has decided to stay put and seek re-election. That leaves Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, state Attorney General Doug Gansler, and Del. Heather Mizeur to duke it out for the Democratic nomination.

House:

AZ-01: In response to a recent House Majority PAC ad defending Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, the NRCC is firing back with one of their own, backed by a small $25,000 buy. The Republican spot derides HMP's claim that Kirkpatrick "blew the whistle" on the failings of the Obamacare website, citing an Arizona Republic piece that points out that Kirkpatrick didn't issue a statement until six weeks after the site launch.

FL-13: The fire is already red hot in the Florida special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young. The NRCC is joining the race with a $230,000 buy (part of reported $725,000 overall campaign), backing a spot bashing Democrat Alex Sink for supporting Obamacare and for allegedly favoring higher taxes. The narrator also rather snidely derides Sink's ads featuring her father as "cute."

The DCCC, meanwhile, has raised the stakes, with airtime reservations now totaling $820,000, according to Politico. That's on top of the $650,000 that we previously mentioned the House Majority PAC says it plans to spend. And here's a likely topic for the D-Trip's next attack ad: The Tampa Bay Times has unearthed a 2009 lobbying report that shows Jolly advocated on behalf of an organization called The Free Enterprise Nation, whose CEO supports privatizing Social Security. If Democrats can make that stick, that could be very toxic in a state like Florida.

FL-19: Values Are Vital, a super PAC backing ex-state Rep. Paige Kreegel in his bid to unseat Rep. Trey Radel in the GOP primary, is taking aim at another (potential) candidate, state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto. Benacquisto hasn't formally declared her entry yet but she's been airing ads to puff up her name recognition. The PAC's spot lambastes her for "running for Congress" while actually "pretending to run for re-election to the Florida Senate" and accuses her of spending money that would be "illegal" in a congressional race. The Republican Party of Florida is pissed about the accusations and has demanded that TV stations remove the Values Are Vital ad.

ID-02: The National Journal's Shane Goldmacher sheds some light on the political activities of the American Dental Association, a strange group that spreads its cheddar on both sides of the aisle. But the ADA's prime focus is on electing dentists to Congress, on the theory that fellow tooth-yankers will look out for their own. This has actually worked well with Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who has often provided a friendly huff of nitrous on behalf of dental interests (and explains that he came up through the world of "grassroots dentistry," which I hope means something different from what it sounds like).

Now the ADA is busy helping Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, who faces a challenge from attorney Bryan Smith in the GOP primary. Simpson was also a dentist before entering politics, but unlike Gosar, he's never made much of an effort to reach out to the industry. With his career on the line, though, that's changing: The ADA has already spent five figures on Simpson and promises "to raise as much as we can for him."

MA-06: Former state Sen. Richard Tisei, who came very close to defeating Democratic Rep. John Tierney last year and had long been exploring a rematch, has finally made it official. Without context, though, that narrow loss looks more promising than it was, because if anything, Tisei blew the race. A late NRCC internal showed him up 12 points, and his final ad was a premature victory lap featuring nothing but waves lapping at an ocean shore.

This time, Tierney is a little bit further removed from the ethical allegations related to his wife's conviction for tax evasion (to which he was never linked). However, Tierney's also contending with a double-barreled primary challenge of his own. On the right, he faces Marine vet Seth Moulton, who has described himself as "fairly centrist." On the left, there's attorney Marisa DeFranco, who tried to out-progressive Elizabeth Warren in 2012 but didn't make it on to the ballot.

And if Tierney survives the renomination process, he'll then have to contend with the potential falloff in midterm voter turnout that dogs so many Democrats. It also doesn't help that he sits in the least blue district in the state, thanks to a less-than-stellar gerrymander by statehouse Democrats. So despite Tisei muffing what looked like a sure thing last cycle, Tierney will definitely face another difficult race.

NC-06: Even though North Carolina's open 6th District leans heavily Republican, Democrats have landed an elected official interested in giving the race a go, Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis. Republicans running include Greensboro City Councilman Zack Matheny, Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr., and a couple of clergymen.

NM-02: Rep. Steve Pearce's new memoir is just what Republican leadership was hoping for in rebranding their party to appeal more to women:

"The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice," he writes, citing the Bible. "The husband's part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else."
OK-05: With Rep. Jim Lankford's entry into the Senate special election for Tom Coburn's seat, three Republicans are already looking to succeed him in the 5th District: Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas (who'd been mentioned as a possible Senate contender), state Sen. Clark Jolley, and former state Sen. Steve Russell. Emily Cahn also mentions three other possible contenders: Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, state Sen. David Holt, and state Rep. Tom Newell.

VA-08: Democrat Jay Fisette, the chair of the Arlington County Board, has ruled out a bid for retiring Rep. Jim Moran's seat. So far, a ton of Democrats have expressed interest, but no one has yet made the leap.

Other Races:

Special Elections: This was the big one, folks. Johnny wraps it up:

Virginia SD-33: A little snow didn't hamper Democratic efforts to hold this seat. Jennifer Wexton easily dispatched Republican John Whitbeck by a 53-37 margin. Republican-turned-independent Joe May pulled in the remaining 10 percent.
With this win, Democrats will retake control of the Virginia state Senate, assuming that Lynwood Lewis' nine-vote lead in the 6th District special election holds up in the upcoming recount. The review will take place Monday, though since all the voting machines involved were electronic, it's mostly a matter of double-checking to make sure there were no transcription errors when votes were recorded. However, some paper ballots were in fact cast, so some undervotes may yet emerge.

Grab Bag:

Georgia: Unlike the lunatics who run the New York legislature, Georgia lawmakers have done the sensible thing in response to a federal judge moving the state's federal primaries earlier: They've consolidated all state and local primaries on the same day, May 20. New York is still slated to have two separate primaries: one for federal races in June and one for all others in September. A ridiculous waste of money.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by DKos Florida and Daily Kos.

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