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Leading Off:

AK-Sen: PPP's latest Alaska poll finds Democratic Sen. Mark Begich clinging to small leads against his two likeliest GOP opponents. This time, however, Tom Jensen included a trio of minor candidates in each matchup, so bear that in mind as you compare these numbers to last July's:

So has Begich slipped, or are these third-party wannabes eating more into the Republican vote? If you look at his matchup with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, you might conclude the latter, since Begich's lead actually expanded a couple of points. But against former state Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan, Begich's margin narrowed by the same amount. However, in both cases, the Republican's vote share dropped a bit, so the Alaskan Independence Party, a right-leaning separatist group, may well be taking from both sides. (Yes, 2010 nominee Joe Miller's take shot up, but he was at rock bottom in the prior poll, and he's not doing much better now. More on him in a minute.)

What's more, Begich's approval rating hasn't budged: He's at 43-44 now, compared to 42-41 last time, so anything that cuts into GOP support while the Democrat holds (relatively) steady is probably welcome. Tom is convinced that Kile and the gang are "splitting the anti-Begich vote" and compares the situation to the Montana Senate race in 2012, when a Libertarian took 6.5 percent of the vote to help Democrat Jon Tester win a plurality victory. Begich would very much like to repeat what Tester did.

However, as is often the case in red states, the undecideds lean heavily Republican versus Democratic: 58-20 in the Sullivan head-to-head and 55-20 with Treadwell. As always, we're dealing with very small sample sizes when looking only at undecided voters (a little over 100, in this case), but given the wide margin in their preferences, the numbers are meaningful.

Of course, the best-case scenario for Begich would be if the GOP nominated Miller (Sarah Palin obviously isn't running), but that's just hard to envision. Right now, Sullivan leads a hypothetical primary, taking 30 percent to 25 for Treadwell, with Miller at 20. That might not seem like a bridge too far, but even among Republican voters, Miller's favorability rating is an awful 26-52. The real change here is for Sullivan, who trailed Treadwell 33-25 (with Miller at 24) last July but has since seen his star rise, particularly after he crushed Treadwell in fourth-quarter fundraising.

Still, if Democrats are going to try to ratfuck a GOP primary anywhere, they ought to try in Alaska. The chances of success aren't high, but the payoff would be immense.

Meanwhile, an awkwardly named super PAC called Alaska's Energy/America's Values says it's spending $41,000 on a TV ad touting Sullivan. The cheaply produced spot features audio of Ronald Reagan saying, "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem," then weakly tries to link Sullivan to that rallying cry by showing a clip of him declaring that "Washington is broken."


GA-Sen: Citizens United is backing Rep. Paul Broun in the race to the bottom that is the GOP Georgia Senate primary, but they've just put out a poll of the primary that doesn't have him leading. The point, though, appears to be that nobody's in a dominant position, and that Broun can still pull this off. The survey has Rep. Phil Gingrey in the lead at 19, followed by ex-Secretary of State Karen Handel at 14, Broun at 13, Rep. Jack Kingston at 11, businessman David Perdue at 8, and businessman Eugene Yu at 2.

Incidentally, the poll was taken by The Polling Company, which is interesting because it may mean that Citizens United has given up on its longstanding relationship with the particularly egregious firm of Wenzel Strategies. (David Jarman)

SC-Sen-A: Yet another disaffected conservative is joining the GOP primary to challenge Sen. Lindsey Graham: attorney-turned-clergyman Det Bowers, whom CNN's Peter Hamby describes as "a well-connected Columbia pastor known for his oratory." In terms of notability, though, he fails the Wikipedia test (i.e., he ain't got a page of his own). What matters most in this race, though, is which of the many ankle-biters pestering Graham make it into the runoff, assuming the incumbent doesn't clear 50 percent in the first round of voting. If Bowers (his first name is short for "DeTreville") can show he has just a bit of political chops, he could be the lucky contender.


AK-Gov, -AL: PPP's new Alaska poll also included some numbers on the state's gubernatorial and House races. Republican Gov. Sean Parnell sports a mediocre 44-41 job approval rating, but he looks relatively comfortable in the horserace standings because the vote against him is split. Parnell earns 41 percent while Democrat Byron Mallot takes 25 and independent Bill Walker gets 16. Walker used to be a Republican, but his campaign has been centered around opposition to a big oil company tax cut that Parnell signed into law last year, so he may be pulling more support from the left than the right.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Don Young leads Democrat Matt Moore 50-22, but what's most notable is that the Libertarian Party candidate, Jim McDermott, takes a gigantic 12 percent. That's likely unsustainable, but it's still an indicator of the disgust some voters who would otherwise lean Republican have with the GOP.

AL-Gov: If former Rep. Parker Griffith ever needs a title for a memoir he should consider "There and Back Again: A Democrat's Tale." That's because the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent has rejoined his original party, making this his third party switch in four years. (Or as Jamison Foser put it, calling to mind a famous SSP post: "Parker Griffith Can't Choose.")

Griffith confirms he's looking at a run for the Democratic nomination to face GOP Gov. Robert Bentley. Griffith adds that he's waiting to see if state Sen. Billy Beasley will run in the Democratic primary and will probably stay out of the race if Beasley enters. He won't have long to wait, though, with the filing deadline coming up on Friday. Though knowing Parker Griffith, that's still plenty of time for him to switch parties again. (Jeff Singer)

FL-Gov: Gravis Marketing: Charlie Crist (D): 47, Rick Scott (R-inc): 44.

KS-Gov: Here's something you don't see every day: Republicans releasing an internal poll to shore up an incumbent governor running for re-election in one of the nation's reddest states. But that's what's going on in Kansas, where Sam Brownback has shown some surprising signs of weakness in recent months. The survey, from Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, puts Brownback ahead of Democratic state House Minority Leader Paul Davis 42-31.

If you're wondering why these mystery Republicans would leak a poll that has Brownback well below 50 and gives him middling 45-41 favorables, well, that's because this is a much better result than the last public poll of the race. SurveyUSA found Davis leading 43-39 back in October. (David Jarman)

MA-Gov: Here's another weird Massachusetts poll that finds state Attorney General Martha Coakley with a comfortable lead over 2010 Republican nominee Charlie Baker in the governor's race but sees all the other Democratic options with absurdly low vote totals. According to Suffolk University, Coakley has a 44-31 edge on Baker, but state Treasurer Steve Grossman trails 33-28, while Juliette Kayyem, Joe Avellone, and Donald Berwick are all in the teens. That's very similar to a recent MassINC survey, so with all those undecideds, presumably no one is pushing leaners very hard.

Suffolk also asked about the Democratic primary, and like pretty much everyone else, they have Coakley way out in front. She's up 56-11 on Grossman, with the other three barely registering. The poll instrument is very weird, though, with lots of issue-based questions folded in between horserace matchups, including topics like casino gambling and the minimum wage. This is not the right way to structure a questionnaire.

MN-Gov: Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton went in-house to select a new running mate, tapping his longtime chief of staff, Tina Smith, to replace Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon. Prettner Solon, who never had a close relationship, with Dayton announced last month that she would not seek a second term.

PA-Gov: In a new ad, Democratic businessman Tom Wolf says he finds it "unacceptable" that Pennsylvania is "not providing sufficient funding for public schools" and isn't properly concerned about the state's infrastructure needs.


CA-33: Progressive activist Sandra Fluke, who previously said she was considering a bid for Rep. Henry Waxman's seat, has filed paperwork with the California Democratic Party so that she can be considered for an endorsement at a local party meeting this weekend. However, a spokesperson says that Fluke is doing this simply to "keep her options open" and isn't formally declaring a bid. (She has not filed with the FEC.)

Though Fluke attracted a great deal of attention in 2012 after Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut" for advocating for coverage of contraceptives, Fluke has never run for office before and would face long odds against the two heavyweight Democrats who've already entered the race, state Sen. Ted Lieu and former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel. And speaking of Greuel, she just picked up an endorsement from a second member of Congress, freshman Rep. Tony Cardenas.

FL-13: Two conservative groups are out with new TV ads in the Florida special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young. The first is a positive spot from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that features ex-Gov. Jeb Bush offering anodyne praise for "Dave" Jolly. (Does it look to anyone else like Bush is wearing a Google Glass?) The second is a negative ad from the American Action Network that attacks Democrat Alex Sink for allegedly making a "mess" of Florida's finances. It features a bucket underneath a running faucet that springs leak after leak, something I found distracting from the list of Sink's supposed sins since I kept wondering when the serious splosh would happen. Spoiler alert: It doesn't.

NH-01, -02: The University of New Hampshire has released numbers from both the state's House races. In the 1st District, Democratic Rep. Shea-Porter trails Republican ex-Rep. Frank Guinta 45-39 but leads businessman Dan Innis 43-33. In the 2nd, the bluer of the two districts, Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster edges former state Sen. Gary Lambert 38-34 and state Rep. Marilinda Garcia 36-30.

UNH polls are infamous for showing wild swings, especially in their House polling, and this survey is no different. Back in October, Shea-Porter destroyed Guinta 48-32, though she performed about the same against Innis. Yeah, things have changed a lot since the days of the shutdown, but is it remotely plausible that there's been a 22-point shift?

UNH also showed a pretty insane amount of turbulence here last cycle. In the space of one week in October, a 46-35 Shea-Porter lead collapsed into a 40-33 Guinta edge before turning into a dead heat two weeks later. (CSP ultimately won by 4.) With UNH polling, there's really one rule to keep in mind: If you don't like the result, just wait—there will be a completely different one soon enough. (Jeff Singer)

NJ-01: Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews, who has represented southern New Jersey's 1st Congressional District since winning a special election in 1990, announced on Tuesday that he will resign later this month to join a law firm in Philadelphia. At one point in the not-too-distant past, Andrews had rendered himself persona non grata in Democratic circles after his quixotic 2008 primary challenge to Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Unlike most members of the House who lose a bid for higher office, though, Andrews managed stay in Congress by manipulating local pols into keeping him on the ballot, where he continued to win re-election.

Rather remarkably, Andrews managed to rehabilitate his image after his disastrous Senate bid, at least among his caucus. He transformed himself from leprous outsider to consummate insider, and even became a "trusted lieutenant" of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. More recently, he'd also been dogged by an increasingly expensive ethics investigation into alleged misuse of campaign funds for personal expenses. But Andrews himself admitted that he's leaving simply to cash out in the private sector, just as he very nearly did after the Lautenberg race.

And just as the fix was in then for Andrews' House seat, so it will be once again. State Sen. Donald Norcross, the brother of South Jersey power broker (and Chris Christie ally) George Norcross, almost immediately announced his own campaign to succeed Andrews, and just about the entire Democratic establishment rallied around him. At least it won't be an outright coronation: Logan Township Mayor Frank Minor says he'll form an exploratory committee to run in the Democratic primary. With only about 6,000 constituents, though, he's not likely to make much of an impact if he runs.

The Inquirer also expects that a special election won't be held until the regular November general election, meaning the seat will remain vacant until then. The 1st District is safely Democratic (it went for Barack Obama by a 65-34 margin in 2012), so given the seat's demographics and the fact that classic New Jersey machine politics will almost certainly control the outcome, the "race" to succeed Rob Andrews will be about as uninteresting as they come.

NY-21: Ah, too bad. Former Rep. Scott Murphy has decided against running for retiring Rep. Bill Owens' seat. Murphy would have been a strong option for keeping the 21st blue as he previously represented about a third of the district (before redistricting) and would also have been able to partly self-fund.

However, there are still several other Democrats considering bids, and one of them, Assemblywoman Addie Russell, confirmed on Tuesday that she's still thinking about a run. Russell had previously said that she "plans" to seek re-election but also added that she was not "completely closing the door" on a Congressional bid, so with Murphy out, her interest may now be higher.

VA-10: Democrats were disappointed with the decision by arch-conservative Republican state Sen. Dick Black not to run for the open seat left behind by Frank Wolf's retirement, and Republicans probably felt they had dodged a bullet, since Black's track record of inflammatory comments would have given Dems a good opening if he'd been the nominee. Turns out, though, that there was more than one bullet in the chamber, and now the Republicans have to dodge another shot.

State Del. Bob Marshall—one of the few GOP state legislators in Virginia who has a shot at out-crazying Black, and who barely squeaked back into his suburban seat last November—is "seriously considering" the race according to local GOP official John Whitbeck (the anti-Semitic joke-teller who recently lost a key special election for the state Senate). Marshall, who unsuccessfully sought the Republicans' U.S. Senate nomination in both 2008 and 2012, has a truly remarkable track record of grabbing attention in all the wrong ways:

On banning abortion even in cases of rape: "The woman becomes a sin-bearer of the crime, because the right of a child predominates over the embarrassment of the woman."

On children with disabilities: "The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children."

On gays in the military: "If I needed a blood transfusion and the guy next to me had committed sodomy 14 times in the last month, yeah, I'm gonna be worried. ... It's a distraction when I'm on the battlefield and I have to concentrate on the guy 600 yards away and I'm worrying about this guy who's got eyes on me."

(David Jarman)

Other Races:

TX-LG: Fresh off of his failed 2012 Senate campaign, Republican Lt. Gov David Dewhurst has a fight on his hands to keep his current job. Dewhurst faces three credible foes in the state's March 4 Republican primary: state Sen. Dan Patrick, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. If no one clears 50 percent, there will be a May runoff.

Not surprisingly, all three of Dewhurst's foes are trying to portray themselves as the true conservative in the field. Dewhurst, who was outflanked on the right by now-Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2012 primary, is trying not to let the same thing happen again. The entire New York Times piece about the race is worth reading for a look at the contest for one of the state's most powerful positions. (Jeff Singer)

WA State Senate: Joan McBride, the Democratic former mayor of Kirkland, confirmed that she'll run for the state Senate against Majority Leader Rodney Tom in the blue-ish 48th District in Seattle's Eastside suburbs. The Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Democrat-who-caucuses-with-the-Republicans Tom is the linchpin holding together the Senate's mostly Republican majority, so control of the Senate could very well hinge on this race. (David Jarman)

Grab Bag:

AFP: Americans for Prosperity, the nerve center of the Koch brothers' many-tentacled Cthulhian nightmare, is launching a new round of advertising in four states. Here's what we know about each race:

AR-Sen: A "three-week air attack" aimed at Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. The topic is Obamacare (of course), but the size of the buy and the ad itself are not yet available.

NC-Sen: $1.4 million targeting Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, though AFP is just recycling an old ad featuring a woman complaining that "Obamacare doesn't work."

FL-02: $150,000 over three weeks, but there are no details about the ad itself. A prior AFP spot actually praised GOP Rep. Steve Southerland.

WV-03: A new spot attacking Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, linking up a clip of him saying "Those who like what they have today would still be able to keep it" with similar remarks from Barack Obama.

President-by-LD: Today we stop over in Oregon, a Democratic-leaning state with some competitive state legislative chambers. We have the results for both the House and Senate, as well as the state's congressional districts, broken down by the races for president, secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general, and labor commissioner. (You can find our master list of data here.)

Democrats control the House 34-26, up from a 30-30 tie after the 2010 elections. Obama's 55-42 statewide win gave him wins in 39 House districts. Five Republicans sit in Obama districts while no Democrats occupy Romney turf. The bluest district represented by a Republican is the Bend-based 54th, which state Rep. Jason Conger is vacating to run for the U.S. Senate. The median district went for Obama 53-44, about three points to the right of the state. Stephen Wolf visualizes the chamber in map form here.

The Senate is much more competitive, with Democrats holding a tiny 16-14 edge. Democrats can't blame a bad map for their narrow majority: Obama won 19 of the 30 districts, and the median of the chamber matches his statewide performance. The GOP holds three Obama seats, and once again no Romney territory is in Democratic hands. The bluest Republican-held seat, the 8th, went for Obama 57-39. (You can find a map here.) Note that only half the chamber was elected under the current lines. However, the changes made by redistricting were not dramatic.

Democrats won every statewide race, and took 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts with them. The more swingy 4th and 5th went blue each time except in the officially non-partisan labor commissioner race. Unsurprisingly, the 2nd—the one GOP-held congressional district in the state—was a tough nut to crack. State Treasurer Ted Wheeler led the Democratic ticket with a 58-37 statewide victory but still lost the district 50-44. (Jeff Singer)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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