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Leading Off:

FL-13: As an elections analyst, I've watched countless campaign ads, and they tend to cluster around similar themes. But here's a new spot from the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club, hammering Republican David Jolly on climate change, that definitely stands apart—particularly since they're spending a hefty $350,000 to air it in the hotly contested special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young:

In case you are unable to watch, here's a transcript:
Ignore the storms. Ignore polar cold. Ignore sea levels rising all around us. Ignore climate change. That's David Jolly's view. But Gulf tides are rising, and the risk of flooding has doubled. NASA and the U.S. military agree: Pinellas needs to prepare. The Times says Jolly's wrong on climate change—that Jolly should go back to his "science books and learn some facts." David Jolly. Back to school, not to Congress.
The spot zooms in on a simple yet effective map that shows just how vulnerable Pinellas County, a fragile peninsula that juts out between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, would be to rising seas and worsening storms. Given how swingy Florida's 13th District is, climate change, when framed properly, must poll better than broadly phrased national survey questions suggest—otherwise LCV and Sierra wouldn't be plowing this kind of money into an ad like this.

Meanwhile, St. Pete Polls now says the race between Jolly and Democrat Alex Sink is tied at 46 all (with Libertarian Lucas Overby at 6), an improvement for Sink from Jolly's 46-44 edge two weeks ago and his 47-43 lead in mid-January. But before you say, "Hey! Those are good trendlines for Sink!", you'll want to don your skeptic's propeller beanie. For starters, you already know what a poor track record St. Pete has.

And even if you put the past aside, their numbers have jumped around wildly in just this one race. Last November, St. Pete began with Sink up 21, then 15, then 13, before finding Jolly ahead by 4 last month. That's a huge swing, but even if you're inclined to point out that Jolly's name recognition was naturally going to rise, that still doesn't explain Sink's vote share dropping from 52 to 43 in two months, before Republicans began attacking her in earnest. This race is likely very close, but don't trust St. Pete to tell you so.


CO-Sen, -04: If you're just catching up on the drama in the Colorado Senate race, here's what you need to know about the Republican field:

Rep. Cory Gardner: Reportedly will join the race but hasn't spoken publicly yet

2010 nominee Ken Buck: Says that he's dropping down to run for Gardner's House seat

State Sen. Amy Stephens: Just confirmed that she's dropping out

State Sen. Owen Hill: Says he's staying in

State Sen. Randy Baumgardner: Also says he's staying in

Hill, who is seriously pissed at Gardner and Buck over their back-room deal, also just received a renewed vote of confidence from the Tea Party Express, a grifty group of consultants who's made bank by hijacking the tea party name but has also already spent $100,000 on ads touting Hill.

Meanwhile, Buck's deal is no longer looking quite so sweet. State Sen. Scott Renfroe confirms he's looking at Gardner's now-open (and safely red) 4th District as well, and several other Republicans are also reportedly considering bids, including state Reps. Tim Dore and Clarice Navarro and Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway. A crowded primary might actually please the GOP establishment, since they've managed to get the deeply flawed Buck out of the Senate race and might even avoid having him in the House, too.

GA-Sen: Republican Rep. Jack Kingston is airing his first ad of the race, your classic introductory biographical spot. The narrator says that Kingston's Depression-raised parents "taught him the value of a dollar and the virtue of hard work," then mentions his conservative values and church-going ways. The ad ends with a funkadelic logo in Cooper Black (or something close to it) that looks like it's straight out of the 1970s. There's no word on the size of this groovy buy.

KY-Sen: Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a new ad portraying himself as a dedicated general in the war against the war on coal. Using a bit of praeterition, McConnell, perhaps in an excerpt from a speech, declares, "I don't have to tell you there's a war on coal in America." (See what he did there?) The end is filled with snippets of conversation, one of which has McConnell saying, "Damn right. We're not gonna sit there and take it—I assure you that." See, he talks just like a regular person!

MI-Sen: A lot of ink's been spilled in response to that shady Americans for Prosperity commercial that featured a Michigan woman with cancer complaining about her health coverage under Obamacare. Now we finally have a response in ad form, from the Senate Majority PAC, though it doesn't take AFP's claims head-on. Rather, the spot cites various fact-checks that found the original AFP ad wanting, then says "the special interests are falsely attacking Gary Peters." Why? Because Republican Terri Lynn Land "will give the wealthy and powerful tax breaks, paid for by middle class families." The size of the buy is a reported $400,000.


CA-Gov: Believe it or not, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown had, until Thursday, refused to confirm whether he'd seek a fourth term in office, but with just a week to go before the filing deadline, he finally submitted the necessary paperwork for his campaign. Given his age (75) and his occasionally quirky behavior, we'd slotted this contest in as a Race to Watch in case of an unlikely retirement. But with that possibility now off the table, we're moving CA-Gov to Safe Democrat.

IL-Gov: State Sen. Bill Brady, the GOP's unsuccessful 2010 nominee, has released a new poll to make the case that he's gaining on the frontrunner in the Republican primary, wealthy venture capitalist Bruce Rauner. The survey, from McKeon & Associates, has Rauner leading Brady 32-24, with state Sen. Kirk Dillard at 13 and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford crashing down to a tragicomic 3 percent.

That's a bit different from We Ask America's newest survey (yep, they have another one), which has Rauner at 36, Dillard at 17, Brady at 13, and Rutherford at 8. Even if Brady is somehow closing the gap (he declined to release trendlines to actually prove it), there's little time for anyone to make up the distance: The primary is March 18, and Rauner keeps spending like wild.


AZ-07: Another veteran House Democrat, Rep. Ed Pastor, has decided to retire at the end of this term. Pastor, 70, had served 11 terms in Congress and had held public office for over half his life, so his decision "to do something else" is not especially surprising. Pastor was not an especially prominent D.C. figure, but his safely blue Phoenix-area seat (it went 72-27 Obama) is likely to attract a lot of attention from fellow Democrats.

Indeed, one candidate is already in. Assistant state House Minority Leader Ruben Gallego, described last year by Roll Call as Pastor's "heir apparent," tweeted "I am in for Congress" shortly after the news of Pastor's retirement broke. But the Great Mentioner team of Emily Cahn and Abby Livingston suggests several other possible names, including Phoenix City Councilwoman Laura Pastor (daughter of Ed) and Councilmen Michael Nowakowski and Daniel Valenzuela; Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers; and state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, who declined a bid for governor earlier this cycle.

LA-06: Republican Garret Graves, who stepped down as Gov. Bobby Jindal's coastal protection advisor recently and had been considering a bid for Congress, has indeed decided to join the field of hopefuls looking to replace Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is running for Senate.

MI-01: Okay, so, remember that super bizarre story a month ago where a local newspaper reporter in Michigan, Garrett Neese, claimed he spoke with Democratic House candidate Jerry Cannon, who allegedly told Neese, "I don't like Obamacare. It's been a disaster for me. I want to go back to the way it was before"? Well, Cannon's campaign immediately denied the candidate ever said such a thing, and Cannon even expressed support for the Affordable Care Act. That left us with a very strange set of potential explanations, but it looks like we now have our answer.

The paper in question, the Mining Gazette of Houghton, Michigan, says they undertook a search of "all phone calls made from the editorial offices" on the day in question and could find no record that Neese ever made any call "to any number associated with the Cannon campaign." Of course, that still leaves further mysteries. Did Neese simply make the whole thing up? Or did he dial the wrong number and somehow get snowed by a prankster?

We may never know, but the moral of the story is that when you hear a quote that sounds too good to be true—as Cannon's surely was—then it probably is.

NY-13: State Sen. Adriano Espaillat officially kicked off his rematch against Rep. Charlie Rangel on Thursday, confirming a decision he'd telegraphed for a long time. Espaillat lost the Democratic primary by just 2.5 percent in 2012, and this time, he may have an even better shot. That's because Harlem pastor Michael Walrond is liable to siphon off a larger portion of the black vote from Rangel than any of the other also-rans did two years ago. Espaillat, meanwhile, is almost certain to have the district's growing Hispanic community solidly behind him once again, which could mean the end of the line for Rangel.

NY-15: Just a few weeks after first floating the possibility of a primary challenge to Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano in the South Bronx, New York City Councilwoman Annabel Palma has decided against running.

TX-33: The Democratic primary in Texas' 33rd has turned negative in its waning days, with freshman Rep. Marc Veasey airing ads attacking his opponent, attorney Tom Sanchez, as a "Republican" for voting in recent GOP primaries and donating to Republican presidential candidates in 2012. (The spot doesn't appear to be online.) Sanchez, meanwhile, is running positive ads in both English and Spanish, spending down the $800,000 he's donated to his own campaign.

There hasn't been any polling, but Veasey likely has the edge, as African American turnout should exceed Hispanic turnout, particularly since this is an off-year. But from the sound of it, Veasey is taking this challenge very seriously. Said Veasey: "Everybody should always consider themselves at risk." Too many politicians, though, don't seem to do that.

Grab Bag:

Demographics: You may have already seen this cool new widget from Clarity Campaign Labs that lets you input any first name and, based on voter registration files, tells you what percentage of people with that name are Democrats or Republicans. We've come up with a fun challenge that piggybacks on this: What are the most Democratic and/or Republican names that you can find?

Knowing a little about how various demographics vote helps you narrow things down pretty quickly, since the most Democratic names are going to be ones that are typically African-American. The highest numbers we've found so far are for Shaniqua, at 89.2 percent Democratic, and, among men, Antoine, at 83.2 percent. Almost all women's names skew at least slightly Democratic; the most Republican-skewing female name that we've found so far is almost too good to be true: Muffy, at 51.2 percent Republican.

The most Republican men's name is a tough nut to crack; there's simply less of a diversity of men's names, and most common male names skew only slightly (51-52 percent) Republican. You need to isolate a name that's kind of WASPy and macho, but also skews old (but not too old, which might give you too many people who came of age during the New Deal). Tops that we've found so far: Kent, at 59.7 percent Republican. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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