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Leading Off:

KS-Gov: We now have a third poll confirming that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is in remarkably poor shape for re-election. Even though Kansas is a deep red state, PPP finds Brownback trailing his Democratic opponent, state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, by a 42-40 spread. That goes along with Brownback's miserable 33-51 job approval rating, down from an already-awful 37-52 a year ago. Davis, meanwhile, is mostly unknown, with a 23-18 favorability score, so as Tom Jensen says, the head-to-head results are indisputably a referendum on Brownback.

And it goes without saying that an incumbent stuck at 40 percent is in an unhappy place, which is what all the polling has shown. In October, SurveyUSA found Davis ahead by a similar 43-39 margin, but perhaps most telling, a Republican internal released earlier this month only had Brownback at 42, with Davis at 31. So why is Brownback in such dire straits? Well, there actually is such a thing as being too conservative, even in a state like Kansas, which until recently was home to a distinct branch of more moderate Republican office-holders.

Brownback and his allies snuffed out that wing of the GOP in the 2012 primaries, but the voters who supported those moderates didn't disappear. Instead, they've watched in disgust as the ultra-conservatives have rammed through radical legislation, including big tax cuts and spending cuts that have savaged education funding, among other things. Indeed, even many self-identified Republicans disapprove of Brownback's performance. And now Kansans have the chance to take these feelings out on their governor, who was never popular to begin with and was fortunate to ride the 2010 wave into office.

Of course, the undecided voters in PPP's survey lean heavily Republican—60 percent say they supported Mitt Romney versus just 27 percent who voted for Barack Obama. And ordinarily, that would offer a decent cushion for a Republican in a red state. But you can't simply allocate all of those Romney voters to Brownback, since they only say they're supporting him by a 63-16 margin, which is very weak. (Obama backers are 78-9 in favor of Davis.) And even if you did, Brownback would only wind up with a 51-47 advantage.

There is, in other words, something the matter in Kansas, but for once, the problem may redound to the Democrats' advantage. While Davis still has a lot to prove, and the Sunflower State's demographics still offer some insurance to Brownback, we no longer think the incumbent is likely to win. We've long had our eye on this race as a potential upset, and the polling has now demonstrated that Brownback's advantage has narrowed. If there's a blue state analog, it's Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, whose personal unpopularity has made him exceptionally vulnerable for re-election. Brownback's not quite there yet, but we're moving the race to Lean Republican to reflect his increasingly precarious position.


GA-Sen: A new poll from the Hicks Evaluation Group and Apache Political Communications finds a five-way pile-up in Georgia's Republican Senate primary. Businessman David Perdue leads with 13, while Reps. Jack Kingston and Paul Broun are both at 11 and Rep. Phil Gingrey and former Secretary of State Karen Handel take 10 apiece. There's been almost no recent polling of this race, but everything we've seen to date suggests a wide-open affair—and one that should be ripe for some Democratic ratfucking.

KS-Sen: Meanwhile, PPP also rather predictably finds that Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who has been lacerated for weeks over his thin ties to his home state, has seen his approval ratings drop a bunch. A year ago, the rather anonymous Roberts has a 31-28 job approval score; now that's down to 29-38. Even Republican primary voters only give him the thumbs up by a 38-32 spread. Roberts' tea party rival, physician Milton Wolf, remains almost entirely unknown, which helps explain why the incumbent holds a 49-23 lead. But against "someone more conservative" (aka Republican Jesus), Roberts clings to just a 43-39 edge. As we've been saying, if Wolf can get some real money behind him, he could definitely doom Roberts.

No matter what happens with the GOP nomination, though, Democrats don't realistically have a shot at a pickup. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, who has been weighing a bid since last November, takes 32 percent of the vote whether he faces Roberts (who earns 48) or Wolf (who gets 33). Even if Taylor were to get in, neither Roberts nor Wolf suffers from the deep unpopularity that Gov. Sam Brownback does, and Democrats would need a fatally flawed opponent to have a chance.

LA-Sen: Chris Lehane, an advisor to billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, says that his boss's group, NextGen Climate Action, won't go after vulnerable Democrats who support the Keystone pipeline this year. That's a relief in particular for Sen. Mary Landrieu, who had reason to fear winding up in NextGen's crosshairs. But, says Lehane, "We're certainly not subscribing to what I would call the tea party theory of politics"—in other words, putting purity ahead of electability and thus sabotaging your chances at victory.

MS-Sen: Quotes in a newspaper article are on thing. Video is something else entirely, and you can sure bet that Republican Sen. Thad Cochran wishes this newly unearthed clip had stayed buried. In a 2008 editorial board meeting, Cochran said that "I really like" both John McCain and Barack Obama, and then heaped further praise on the Democrat ("I think he will do an excellent job" with respect to diplomacy, and more). It's not hard to see these snippets winding up in an attack ad from Cochran's primary opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

NH-Sen: In what's presumably an attempt to demonstrate that their negative advertising against Scott Brown has paid off—and an attempt to dissuade him from entering the contest—LCV has put out a new poll from PPP showing Brown trailing Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen 47-39. Last month, PPP found Shaheen ahead just 46-43, the closest they've ever had the race.


HI-Gov: Not long ago, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann didn't dispute reports that he might switch parties to run for governor as a Republican. Now he's saying he might make an independent bid, or more specifically, run as a member of the new Hawaii Independent Party, which is still trying to qualify for the ballot. If this does happen, it could set up a bizarre three-way rematch between the three major gubernatorial contenders in 2010: Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Republican Duke Aiona (who is also considering a second bid), and, of course, Hannemann.


FL-13: You never want to read too much into early voting statistics for a variety of reasons, but as of last Wednesday, 42 percent of the absentee ballots cast in the FL-13 special election have come from Republicans while 39 percent have been from Democrats. But despite what that spread might imply on the surface, reporter Adam Smith interprets this as bad news for GOP nominee David Jolly.

That's because in 2012, Republicans actually had a 6-point advantage in the early vote, despite Barack Obama's massive efforts to win Florida. Even so, Obama still carried the 13th by about 1.5 percent. And while GOP Rep. Bill Young won handily, it's safe to say that Jolly won't have the same level of crossover support. Still, though, these early vote totals can change quickly, and if Republicans have decided to instead focus on Election Day turnout, then they may mean less than they have in the past.

ID-02: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is actually capable of spending real money, has endorsed GOP Rep. Mike Simpson for re-election. Simpson faces a primary challenge from Club for Growth-backed attorney Bryan Smith.

NJ-03: Even though the Democratic establishment has rallied around Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard almost from day one, it looks like she'll nevertheless face a contested primary in New Jersey's open 3rd Congressional District. Jack Fanous, the executive director of a veterans group called the G.I. Go Fund, says he's running, and he also claims to have raised $100,000 in a single week, though he doesn't appear to have filed paperwork with the FEC yet.

NY-21: New York's Independence Party, a mostly corrupt, ideology-free institution that typically supports whichever candidate will funnel the most dough their way, has once again decided to back wealthy Republican businessman Matt Doheny. But the move is potentially fraught with peril. If Doheny loses the GOP nomination to Elise Stefanik, there's no real way to get him off the Independence line in November. That means he could wind up drawing votes away from Stefanik, which is exactly what happened to him in 2010, when Republican primary loser Doug Hoffman took 6 percent as the Conservative Party's candidate as Doheny lost by little more than 1 percent to Democrat Bill Owens.

WA-04: There's one more top-tier entrant to the Republican field for the open seat in the dark-red 4th: the former director of the state Dept. of Agriculture, Dan Newhouse. One potential problem for Newhouse among the more rabid GOP voters, though, is that he was appointed to that position by then-Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat (though he was a Republican state representative before that).

Another name you can strike from the list, though, is state Rep. Judy Warnick. Instead of running for Congress, Warnick will seek a promotion to the seat being vacated by state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, who has already announced for the 4th. (David Jarman)

Other Races:

OR Ballot: New internal polling from Anzalone Liszt Grove on behalf of Oregon United for Marriage finds 55-41 support in favor of a ballot measure to repeal the state's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That's up from 51-43 last July, though the issue could conceivably be moot by this fall. Oregon's attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, recently announced that she would not defend the state's ban in court, and judges in several fast-moving federal cases around the country have already found a constitutional right to marry.

Indeed, Oregon United says it will hold off on submitting signatures to place the repeal on the ballot pending a possible ruling by the judge hearing the case. It's possible the judge may not decide in time, though, and what's more, it makes sense to press on and remove this bit of bigotry from the state constitution regardless of what happens in the courts. Still, a favorable ruling will probably mean the end of the campaign, as a top Oregon United staffer says "nobody has any hunger for a ballot measure we don't need."

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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