• CO-Sen, -04: This would be huge if true, and it seems like it almost certainly is. According to unnamed sources who spoke with the Denver Post, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner is set to make a late—and very unexpected—entry into the race for Senate. Gardner was a top choice for GOP recruiters last year, but he declined a bid against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall since he seemed fast-tracked to move up the leadership ranks in the House. That left Republicans with a pretty weak field that features deeply flawed 2010 nominee Ken Buck at the front of the pack.
But a Gardner candidacy would seriously shake up the race. If he gets in, a huge question would be whether other, more tea-flavored candidates stay in the primary, or whether the field clears. So far, the outlook on that front is unclear. Buck immediately declared that he'd drop down to run for Gardner's safely Republican House seat (while denying the fix was in), and the Weekly Standard claims that state Sen. Amy Stephens will also bail on the Senate race.
However, state Sen. Owen Hill sounds like he's staying put: He said that Gardner "tried to push me out of the race" and denounced the Gardner-Buck switcheroo as "corruption." Meanwhile, a third state senator also running for Senate, Randy Baumgardner, declared that he's not going anywhere either. Whether Hill or Baumgardner can emerge as a viable anti-Gardner option, though, remains to be seen.
And if Gardner can vanquish these foes to earn his party's nomination, Udall will have a very serious race on his hands. Indeed, someone as cautious as Gardner wouldn't make this leap without some very positive polling. A PPP poll from last April had Udall up 10, but that was a long time ago in Colorado politics, and Democratic fortunes have since headed south.
Assuming we wind up with a Gardner vs. Udall race, that would mean, at the very least, a titanic matchup in the Rockies. It would also further stretch Democrats by forcing them to divert resources from other contests, which is exactly what the party doesn't need right now. But it's still no sure thing that Gardner would win the Republican primary, given how often we've seen establishment GOPers crash and burn. And that's certainly what Democrats would have to hope for here.
• KS-Sen: Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is unloading on his tea party primary challenge, physician Milton Wolf, with a new ad that excoriates Wolf for ghoulishly violating patient privacy by posting x-rays of the dead on Facebook along with grotesque commentary. A gravelly-voiced announcer sums up the bizarre story and cites a medical ethicist mentioned in the original Topeka Capital-Journal report who called Wolf's behavior "beyond alarming." Concludes the narrator: "If Milton Wolf is so irresponsible as a doctor, how can he possibly be trusted as a U.S. senator?" The size of the buy is reportedly around $105,000.
• KY-Sen: The Big Dog brought in some big bucks for Alison Grimes. According to the Grimes campaign, donors gave the Democratic Senate hopeful $700,000 thanks to Bill Clinton's fundraiser on Tuesday in Louisville.
• MI-Sen, Gov: Democratic pollster Clarity Campaign Labs is out with some surprisingly bullish numbers for Michigan Democrats. (The poll was conducted in-house and not on behalf of any campaign or organization.) In the Senate race, Clarity finds Democratic Rep. Gary Peters beating former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land 46-40, while ex-Rep. Mark Schauer leads Republican Gov. Rick Snyder 47-40 in the gubernatorial contest.
Most recent public polling, on the other hand, has put Land up a few points, while Snyder has often led by mid-to-high single digits. Then again, as we've often noted, Michigan is home to a lot of crummy pollsters. And Clarity's methodology is pretty different from most. The firm explains that it "match[ed] individual voter file records to survey respondents to validate and weight the sample using the voter file-based Likely Voter 2014 model." Other outfits probably aren't using models like Clarity's.
• PA-Sen: That Harper poll of Pennsylvania also included a hypothetical 2016 Democratic primary matchup between ex-Rep. Joe Sestak, who's already announced he wants a rematch against GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, and state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who could also seek the Senate seat. Kane leads 47-24, likely due at least in part to name recognition: She won a resounding victory in 2012 and has regularly made headlines since, while Sestak hasn't been on the ballot since his 2010 loss.
• SC-Sen-A: Yet another poll shows GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham a bit shy of the 50 percent mark he needs to hit in order to avoid a runoff this summer. According to Winthrop University, Graham takes 45 percent while state Sen. Lee Bright is far behind with 9. Every other candidate is under 4, and 35 percent of Republican primary voters are undecided.
• PA-Gov: There are two new polls of the Pennsylvania governor's race, one of the Democratic primary, and one of the general election. In the former, Franklin and Marshall sees what GOP outfit Harper Polling found earlier in the week: a surge for wealthy businessman Tom Wolf, who leads with 36 percent. The rest of the field is in single digits.
But there's also an indicator that Wolf's lead might be somewhat illusory, since he's only at 11 percent among those who have not seen one of many his ads (a smallish group, to be fair, given that a majority of voters have in fact seen one). So the question for Wolf is whether he'll be able to continue to hold a healthy lead when the rest of the field takes to the airwaves.
As for the latter, Quinnipiac polls the November elections and finds what everyone finds: Republican incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett losing. The margins vary pretty widely, but Corbett trails all comers:
32-51 vs. Tom WolfUnsurprisingly, Wolf's lead is by far the largest, thanks again to his extensive advertising. Corbett's job approval continues to circle the drain (36-52), with voters saying, by an outsized 55-34 margin, that the first-term Republican does not deserve re-election. (Steve Singiser)
36-43 vs. Rob McCord
37-44 vs. Jack Wagner
38-44 vs. Allyson Schwartz
37-40 vs. John Hanger
38-40 vs. Katie McGinty
• CA-17: "Set your phasers to 'fun'!" is my obligatory Star Trek joke in honor of the fact that George Takei will be headlining a March fundraiser in San Francisco on behalf of Rep. Mike Honda. Organizers are obviously looking for big bucks ($2,600 rates you the "Oh Myyy!" level), but Sulu fans can attend for as little as $50.
• HI-01: Merriman River also has numbers on the Democratic primary in Hawaii's 1st District, where they find state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim leading state Rep. Mark Takai 25-20, with everyone else in single digits. (The poll is a couple of weeks old, so it did not include Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan, who announced on Feb. 15.) A recent survey from Ward Research had Kim ahead of Takai by a twice-as-wide 31-21 spread.
• IA-02: As expected, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who recently stepped down as head of the state Department of Public Health, has decided to run against Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack a third time. Miller-Meeks got crushed by 18 points in 2008, then managed a narrower 5-point loss the following cycle. But if she couldn't get it done in 2010, it's hard to see how she'll prevail now.
• MI-12: Here's an interesting (and unexpected) statistic: If Debbie Dingell runs for and wins retiring Democratic Rep. John Dingell's House seat, it'll be the first time in congressional history that a wife has succeeded a living husband. (The reverse has never happened either.) Widows have often followed their late husbands into office—indeed, almost one in six of the women who have ever served in the House or Senate arrived in such a manner, but it's less common nowadays.
Debbie Dingell isn't the first to try, though: Kansas Democrat Stephene Moore attempted to succeed her husband, Rep. Dennis Moore, but got swamped in the 2010 GOP wave. The University of Minnesota has more statistics on spousal succession.
• NY-21: Former state Sen. Darrel Aubertine announced on Wednesday that he would not run for New York's open 21st Congressional District. With Assemblywoman Addie Russell previously saying she wouldn't run, either, that leaves filmmaker Aaron Woolf as the last Democrat standing. On the GOP side, businesswoman Elise Stefanik and investment banker Matt Doheny, the 2010 and 2012 nominee, are duking it out.
• PA-06: The D.C. Democratic establishment may be rallying around businessman Mike Parrish but local Dems continue to give their support to physician (and two-time nominee) Manan Trivedi. The Montgomery County Democratic Party just endorsed Trivedi, following the same move by their counterparts in Chester County. The third sizable county in the district, Berks, is also where Trivedi is from, so he's likely to scoop them up as well. (A part of Lebanon County is also in the 6th, but it's tiny.)
• DC Mayor: A new Democratic primary poll from Marist on behalf of several local news organizations offers mixed news for Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. On one hand, Gray leads with 28 percent in the April 1 primary, with his nearest opponent, Councilmember Muriel Bowser, at 20. A majority of respondents also approve of Gray's job performance. The bad news for Hizzoner is that voters are still suspicious of him: With an investigation of his 2010 campaign ongoing, 70 percent of voters say Gray was at least involved in unethical activities.
With most Democratic voters ready to vote the incumbent out, a Gray victory has always depended on his many challengers splitting the vote and allowing him to coast to victory on a plurality. That still appears to be the case at the moment, but Bowser seems to be breaking away from the field. She leads fellow Councilmembers Jack Evans and Tommy Wells by 7 and 8 points respectively, and more than 20 percent of voters rank her as their second choice (for Gray, it's 12 percent).
Bowser also scooped up some potentially useful endorsements from EMILY's List and the Washington Post. If Bowser establishes herself as Gray's main opponent, she could pick up enough of the other candidates' supporters and cost Gray renomination. (Jeff Singer)
• NY State Senate: Jesus. Another Democratic state senator, Tony Avella of Queens, has defected to the so-called Independent Democratic Conference, joining the quartet of renegade Dems who've sold their souls to the minority GOP in exchange for a share of power in the ruling "majority coalition." It's not entirely clear why Avella in particular decided to abandon his party, but he's known for not getting along with fellow members, and now he'll be able to advance his personal agenda (whatever that may be) more easily.
Of course, the IDC has managed to block a much broader progressive agenda, and their leader, Jeff Klein, may suffer for it in this year's primary. But Avella's move definitely makes things harder for mainstream Democrats to take back the chamber. The math is complicated and subject to change, but as of now, Democrats would need a net of five pickups this November, if no members of the IDC were to rejoin the fold. Given their power-chasing ways, though, some IDCers could change their allegiances yet again.
• Special Elections: There was a party flip in one of Tuesday night's special elections, and it wasn't good news for the Democrats. Johnny Longtorso:
Connecticut SD-10: This was an easy hold; Democrat Gary Holder-Winfield defeated Republican Steven Mullins by a 76-24 landslide.Especially distressing is the fact that Obama carried HD-100 by a 10-point margin, so this seat went a monster 30 points in the opposite direction. Yikes.
Virginia HD-100: This, however, was a Republican pickup. Republican Rob Bloxom Jr. defeated Democrat Willie Randall by a 60-40 margin. Unfortunately for Virginia Democrats, this means that their net gain of one seat in the House last year just got wiped out.
In the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Martin O'Malley, three credible Democrats are running. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who looks like the early frontrunner, will face Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur; three other minor Democrats are also running. The winner will likely make history: Brown would be the state's first African American governor, while Mizeur would be the first openly gay governor elected anywhere. (Though in Maine, likely Democratic nominee Mike Michaud would tie Mizeur for that title if they both win.)
Five Republicans make up the field here: Hartford County Executive David Craig, Del. Ron George, former state cabinet official Larry Hogan, businessman and 2010 MD-05 nominee Charles Lollar, and 2012 senatorial also-ran Brian Vaeth. What little polling there is indicates none of the candidates are well known to primary voters yet. Daily Kos Elections rates the race as Likely Democratic.
Two other statewide races are on the ballot. Incumbent Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot has no primary opposition and will face a rematch with Republican William Campbell in November. In 2010 Franchot defeated Campbell 61-39. Three Democrats are running for the attorney general's post left open by Gansler: Dels. Aisha Braveboy and Jon Cardin (who is also the nephew of Sen. Ben Cardin), and state Sen. Brian Frosh. The winner will face Republican attorney Jeffrey Pritzker, who narrowly lost the GOP primary for this office back in 2002.
All eight of Maryland's House members (seven Democrats and one Republican) are running, and they only face token primary challenges. All eight are also rated as Safe in the general election. (Jeff Singer)