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Leading Off:

HI-Sen, -Gov: The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now have, as they do from time to time, commissioned a poll from Ward Research of all of Hawaii's major races this year. We'll start at the top with the Democratic primary for Senate, though you'll want to take in all of their results. Ward, which hadn't previously surveyed the contest, finds Rep. Colleen Hanabusa leading Sen. Brian Schatz 48-40. These numbers inspired Schatz leak a month-old internal poll from the Mellman Group that instead have him ahead 41-37, a slight uptick from his 38-37 edge last June.

Ward actually has a pretty decent track record in difficult-to-poll Hawaii, while Mellman clients haven't released very many polls from the Aloha State. (They did, however, work for Mazie Hirono's successful Senate campaign last cycle.) So their Senate findings are certainly plausible, especially since Hanabusa, with a favorability rating of 62-27, is still slightly better known than Schatz (51-25). However, Schatz's team sent out a reminder that Ward seriously muffed the HI-02 Democratic primary last cycle, putting Mufi Hannemann up 10 when Tulsi Gabbard won by 21.

It's Ward's gubernatorial numbers, though, that are really out there. The race hasn't been polled by anyone previously, but even so, Republican Duke Aiona's 48-40 lead over Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie is just hard to believe. Now, you might say that Abercrombie's not well-liked, so perhaps it's possible that he's trailing. But he's not that unpopular, with favorables of 45-48, and Hawaii is still an extremely blue state. (Aiona's remarkably popular, though, earning a 58-26 favorability score.)

Here's something else that stands out. Aiona, the 2010 GOP nominee, also beats state Sen. David Ige, who is challenging Abercrombie in the Democratic primary, by a 51-34 spread. Ige is mostly unknown, so he's a decent stand-in for Generic Democrat. But if Aiona is actually beating Abercrombie because of the incumbent's singular flaws, then his share of the vote shouldn't be higher against Generic D. (Think about it this way: Alaska Sen. Mark Begich's support is going to be stronger against the despised Joe Miller than it would be against a generic Republican.)

Ige, who just earned the endorsement of the 13,500-strong Hawaii State Teachers Association, is also not too far behind Abercrombie in the primary matchup, trailing 47-38. So either this poll shows that Abercrombie, despite sporting a middling favorability rating and running for re-election in a solidly Democratic state, is somehow in incredibly dire straits... or it's just simply incorrect. (And if it's the latter, then the Senate numbers are questionable, too.) No matter what, though, this is an excellent example of why you can never judge a race based on a single survey, especially in quirky Hawaii.


IA-Sen: Ah, too bad. After teasing us for months, conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats has decided not to run for Senate. A BVP entry would have made it more likely that the GOP nomination would get thrown to a convention, which is required if no candidate takes more than 35 percent in the primary. And Vander Plaats, thanks to his name recognition and network of conservative Christian supporters, would have stood a good chance of getting his party's nod, something Democrats would have enjoyed very much as well. Alas, it's not to be, but the Republican field still remains very split, and Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley has managed to outraise all six GOP candidates combined.

TX-Sen: So Gravis Marketing just released a poll showing Sen. John Cornyn ahead of Rep. Steve Stockman by a 43-28 margin in March 4 GOP primary, much closer than probably anyone expected. However, Stockman and Cornyn are not the only two candidates on the ballot. While most of the others are Some Dudes, there's also tea partier Dwayne Stovall, who just earned a whole bunch of media attention thanks to a wacky TV ad likening Mitch McConnell to an animated turtle. The poll was conducted before Stovall's ad hit, but he probably should have been included regardless, since he's raised the third-most overall. That's still pennies, but it's not like Stockman has much money, either.

WV-Sen: EMILY's List is pushing out a new poll of the West Virginia Senate race, conducted by Clarity Campaigns, that shows a surprisingly close contest. GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is beating Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (an EMILY endorsee) by just a 45-39 margin, much closer than a pair of polls from PPP and Harper last September that had Capito up around 15 points. There's no crosstab or sample information available, though. As for Clarity, they don't have much of a public track record, though a last-minute Indiana poll in 2012 nailed both the Senate and governor's races that year.


NH-Gov: John DiStaso reports that businessman Walter Havenstein, who along with his wife Judy has been a major donor to GOP causes, is considering a bid for governor. So far, the only Republican who has announced a campaign against Gov. Maggie Hassan is conservative activist Andrew Hemingway.

MD-Gov: An OpinionWorks survey of Maryland's Democratic gubernatorial primary for the Baltimore Sun finds Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown beating state Attorney General Doug Gansler 35-14, with Del. Heather Mizeur just behind at 10 percent. That's in keeping with the 20-point leads Brown's generally had in other polls, but thanks to the higher undecideds, this is Gansler's worst-ever showing in a three-way race—and also Mizeur's best. While Gansler has far more cash than Mizeur does, his fundraising has slowed down thanks to his frequent stumbles. If these numbers are right, and if a serious anti-Brown movement does coalesce, it's not impossible that Mizeur could be the beneficiary.

There are also GOP primary numbers, but the contest is a mess, with almost 70 percent of Republican voters undecided and no candidate taking more than 13 percent.

NJ-Gov: There's not much of a horserace angle here, but Alec MacGillis' excellent new piece in the New Republic is a must-read for understanding how corrupt New Jersey machine politics has managed to thrive in the new century, and how GOP Gov. Chris Christie has proven a master at manipulating it for his personal political advantage—until Bridgegate, of course. There is one interesting electoral tidbit worth highlighting, though. As Christie headed into his re-election campaign last year, he assiduously cultivated Democratic power brokers like the infamous George Norcross, as well as Democratic elected officials, in order to help run up his own score. In so doing, he deliberately stiff-armed his own party:

As Election Day neared, you could be forgiven for mistaking Christie for a Democrat. State Republicans were frozen out; candidates were told not to include his name or picture on their literature. "We didn't get the support," says George Wagoner, a losing Assembly candidate.
Focusing on Democratic outreach may have helped Christie pad his margins, but this helps explain why he had zero coattails in the legislature despite winning by 22 points. Indeed, Republicans managed to net zero additional seats, a rather remarkable feat given the size of the victory at the top of the ticket. But if Christie was treating his own party like lepers, then it makes sense. And it also means there will be fewer people ready to stand by him as he continues his long tumble downward.

WI-Gov: Here's that RGA ad we were expecting, attacking likely Democratic nominee Mary Burke, who served as Wisconsin's secretary of commerce for a few years in the middle of the last decade under Gov. Jim Doyle. A slightly over-the-top announcer exclaims: "Burke was a senior member of the Doyle administration that left Wisconsin with 130,000 fewer jobs and a $3 billion budget shortfall." The narrator also throws in a jab at Burke's "family business," Trek Bicycle Corp., claiming it "outsourced Wisconsin jobs to China." The buy is reportedly for six figures, which usually means "a bit over $100,000."


CA-11: Even though just about every Democrat in creation seems to have endorsed state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier to replace retiring Rep. George Miller, at least one has other ideas. Alameda Councilman Tony Daysog says he's considering a run of his own, though he acknowledges he only has a few weeks left until the March 7 filing deadline. Daysog has made a couple of other unsuccessful bids for higher office (Assembly, mayor) but has never reached this high before.

HI-01: The Ward Research poll discussed at length above also included a test of the Democratic primary for Rep. Colleen Hanabusa's open 1st District seat, though note that the sample was a rather small 272 voters—lower than the bare minimum 300 you typically see in political polling. Here's how the field breaks down, with each candidate's favorability rating in parentheses:

State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim: 31 (49-22)
State Rep. Mark Takai: 21 (34-10)
Honolulu City Councilmember Stanley Chang: 10 (22-12)
Honolulu City Councilmember Ikaika Anderson: 10 (33-13)
State Sen. Will Espero: 6 (22-14)
Activist Katherine Xian: 2 (3-4)
Undecided: 21
Unsurprisingly, the well-known Kim is in the lead, but the poll was taken before Honolulu City Councilmember Joey Manahan, whose geographic base overlaps with hers, joined the race. While Manahan may or may not have the chops to stop Kim himself, his entry may at least make things harder for Kim and give another candidate a better shot at victory. Kim remarkably voted against the same-sex marriage legislation that passed the Hawaii legislature by wide margins last year, so a progressive alternative would be welcome.

Grab Bag:

Texas: With the Lone Star State's March 4 primary rapidly approaching, Joseph Vogas at Burnt Orange Report (aka Daily Kos Elections community member Trowaman) gives us a rundown of the races for statewide office. Every post features an open-seat contest except for the very powerful lieutenant governorship, where Republican incumbent David Dewhurst is fighting to win renomination.

For those looking to get deep in the weeds, Burnt Orange also gives us a three-part roundup of the competitive primaries for the state House (here, here, and here), as well as one for the Senate. Altogether, an excellent set of resources for those looking to learn more about Texas politics. (Jeff Singer)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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