• OR-Sen, -Gov: PPP's first post-primary poll of Oregon finds both of the state's top Democrats, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Gov. John Kitzhaber, with comfortable leads over their GOP opponents. Merkley currently beats physician Monica Wehby, whose public image has recently taken a hit thanks to stalking allegations, by a 50-36 margin. Wehby's favorables stand at just 26-40, while Merkley sports a decent 41-34 job approval score.
Except for one impossible-to-believe survey from Republican pollster Vox Populi, Merkley's always had double-digit leads, so PPP's numbers seem plausible. However, as Tom Jensen notes, most of the undecideds don't like Obama (even though this is a blue state), so the race will likely tighten.
Kitzhaber, meanwhile, holds a similar 49-35 advantage over state Rep. Dennis Richardson, even though Kitz earns just a 42-46 approval rating. Richardson is little-known, though, and again, things are likely to tighten up. But Oregon's demographics simply make victory for Republicans, especially against incumbents, very difficult.
• GA-Gov: That didn't take long. Just days after first reserving air time, the RGA is airing their first spot against Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter. The ad starts by trashing Obamacare, then ties it in to some comments Carter made about keeping a Medicaid expansion plan "on the table". Of course the RGA doesn't mention the word "Medicaid" once, but the narrator does say "Obamacare" five times in case you didn't get the message. The RGA currently has $500,000 behind the ad. (Jeff Singer)
• IA-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Jack Hatch has put out an internal poll from the Global Strategy Group that's maybe a touch better than some of the other numbers he's seen lately, but isn't really much different from the bulk of recent public polling. GSG finds GOP Gov. Terry Branstad leading Hatch 47-40, almost identical to the 48-40 spread PPP saw in the middle of May (when Hatch's poll was also in the field), and little different from Branstad's 48-39 advantage in the HuffPo Pollster average.
• NY-Gov: According to various reports, the Working Families Party, which is holding its convention this weekend, is considering three different candidates as potential gubernatorial nominees, in the event they decide not to support Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. On the list are education historian Diane Ravitch, law professor Zephyr Teachout, and the WFP's own director, Dan Cantor.
It's pretty surprising that there doesn't appear to be a single retired politician who's interested in sparring with Cuomo, but at least Ravitch would bring a respected name to the race, though she says she's not running. Teachout, on the other hand, is a non-entity at best (who once considered a run for Congress in Vermont), and Cantor is obviously the backup backup plan.
The whole situation is complicated, though, and there are many ways to game it out. One possibility is that the WFP doesn't want to endorse Cuomo but also doesn't want to spend serious resources on their own candidate, so they'd nominate a sacrificial lamb (and help him or her get the 50,000 votes necessary to keep the party's ballot line) but concentrate on winning back the Republican-controlled state Senate instead. Another alternative is that the WFP is playing a game of chicken and has to look like they're really committed to a non-Cuomo option so that the governor feels pressure to push the Senate to pass real campaign finance reform that includes public funding for office-seekers.
Cuomo, at least, is acting like he cares about the issue, saying he'll consider the Senate's ruling coalition of Republicans and renegade Democrats a "failure" if they don't pass reform legislation, and promising he'll "act accordingly." It's hard to imagine Cuomo really pulling the plug on his buddies in the Senate, which he prefers remain in GOP hands, but if he values the WFP's ballot line even more, then he might have to trade the Senate for campaign finance reform, since reform now appears to be dead.
But how would such a trade actually work? Blake Zeff, who's done terrific reporting on Cuomo for years, explains how such a deal might play out:
First, the united groups—including unions like 1199 and the Hotel Trades Council, which backed a Republican state senate in recent years—would declare the need for a Democratic state senate. For WFP members to be interested, they'd like to see the governor say he will help fund primary challenges to the Independent Democratic Caucus—a band of breakaway Democrats now caucusing with Republicans—with millions of dollars if they don't rejoin the party in earnest.No matter what happens, though, we'll finally have some answers soon.
Further, they'd want to see him put real money and energy behind an effort to peel off additional seats for Democrats, ensuring a lasting senate majority that has eluded Democrats—and real progressive governance in the state—for decades. Finally, party activists say they want to hear the governor declare his intent to deliver a progressive wish-list including not only public financing of elections, but other items like a minimum wage increase and DREAM Act.
• CA-33: With just a few days to go before Tuesday's primary, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has endorsed fellow Democrat Ted Lieu to succeed retiring Rep. Henry Waxman. Last year, Garcetti defeated one of Lieu's chief rivals, Wendy Greuel, to become mayor.
• KS-04: Well, this oughta be hella fun. Ex-Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who left Congress in 2010 after narrowly losing the GOP primary for Senate that year, just announced that he'll seek a comeback by challenging the man who succeeded him in the House, Rep. Mike Pompeo. When he first floated the idea of running back in January, Tiahrt sought to portray himself as more conservative than Pompeo, but as we noted at the time, Tiahrt's voting record was actually more moderate than Pompeo's—which is not to say it was moderate!
But at least as far as the Club for Growth is concerned, Tiahrt's a "liberal," and they immediately endorsed Pompeo, who rates much higher on the Club's scorecard. But he doesn't rate higher with many of his fellow Republicans: After his 2010 primary victory, Pompeo's GOP opponents refused to endorse him, and one very nearly ran as an independent just to screw him over. So while Tiahrt doesn't have a lot of time before the Aug. 5 primary, he probably does still have some good name recognition, and it wouldn't be at all surprising if some members of the local establishment were eager to see Pompeo get the boot.
Here's a great "P.S.," though: One Republican who did endorse Pompeo was none other than... Todd Tiahrt, who said he'd "sleep well at night" if Pompeo won. Guess he's been experiencing some insomnia lately.
• MI-03: A new survey from The Polling Company for FreedomWorks finds Rep. Justin Amash beating businessman Brian Ellis by a wide 53-23 lead in the Aug. 5 GOP primary. (FreedomWorks endorsed Amash earlier this year.) The only other poll of the race, from Basswood Research on behalf of the Club for Growth, had Amash up 60-12 in February.
• MI-14: For a long time, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence had seemed like the frontrunner in the Democratic primary for Rep. Gary Peters' open seat, but ex-Rep. Hansen Clarke's last-minute entry appears to have shaken up the race. A new poll from Target-Insyght (on whose behalf is unclear) finds Clarke leading Lawrence 32-22, with state Rep. Rudy Hobbs at 8 and Marine Corps vet Burgess Foster at 5. That leaves a third of voters undecided, though, so the nomination is still up for grabs.
• NJ-12: The June 3 primary for New Jersey's safely Democratic 12th District is almost here, and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has a new ad out. The narrator portrays Coleman as the strongest progressive in the race and as someone who will fight the tea party in Congress. (Jeff Singer)
• NY-22: American Unity, a super PAC devoted to helping Republican candidates who back same-sex marriage, is going on the air with a hefty $500,000 television buy attacking Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney in her primary challenge to Rep. Richard Hanna. Hanna supports marriage equality, but since that position isn't exactly a major winner in a GOP primary, American Unity's ad is devoted to attacking Tenney for allegedly voting against various tax cuts. "Tenney even voted with liberal Speaker Sheldon Silver 83 percent of the time," it adds.
• VA-08: The June 10 Democratic primary isn't far away and the ads are flying in this crowded race to succeed Rep. Jim Moran. Former Northern Virginia Urban League head Lavern Chatman is among the entrants, and she narrates a positive, though not particularly memorable, spot.
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille is a bit more creative with his commercial. It starts out describing everything Euille had going against him in life, with a rising ticker above him visualizing those steep odds. Euille then comes in and brushes the ticker aside, saying he beat those odds. Euille talks about his accomplishments and ends at a high school where students have those same tickers above their heads, as Euille says he can "do more in Congress to make the odds a little better for everyone." It's a pretty effective spot that's both memorable and hits all the right notes.
Radio show host and former congressional aide Mark Levine is also up with his second ad, and it, too, is pretty good. Levine starts by saying he has a secret weapon in his pocket to ward off the tea party: "It's called the Constitution." (I thought he was going to say, "The Star Wars Holiday Special.") Levine takes the tea party to task for thinking they own the Constitution when, he claims, they've never actually read it.
And while we're on the race, here's something you don't see every day: an internal poll released by a candidate after dropping out of the race. But businessman Bruce Shuttleworth has done just that, sharing a survey his campaign conducted before he departed the race a few weeks ago.
The early May poll from EMC Research gave former Lt. Governor Don Beyer 30 percent in the Democratic primary, with second place contenders Del. Patrick Hope and state Sen. Adam Ebbin all the way back at 9 each. Shuttleworth was deep in the weeds at 3 percent and couldn't take the lead even when positive messages were read about him while Beyer was described in negative terms. Not much of a surprise he called it quits. (Jeff Singer)
There's a crowded Republican field competing to succeed Gov. Jan Brewer. The candidates are Secretary of State Ken Bennett; Treasurer Doug Ducey; former GoDaddy attorney Christine Jones; state Sen. Al Melvin; former California Rep. Frank Riggs; former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith; and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. There has been little public polling here and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. The winner will face Democratic State University Regent Fred DuVal in a race Daily Kos Elections rates as Lean Republican.
There are crowded Republican primaries for other statewide offices, too. Three Republicans, including 2012 Senate candidate Wil Cardon, are competing to succeed Bennett as secretary of state. The winner will face former Attorney General and 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry Goddard. Three Republicans are also running for Ducey's treasurer post, with no Democrats in the race.
Meanwhile, Republican Attorney General Tom Horne faces a rematch with Democrat Felecia Rotellini, who performed well against him in 2010 despite the GOP wave. However, Horne must first get past former state Gaming Director Mark Brnovich in the primary.
One of Arizona's nine House members, Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor, is retiring. Pastor's Phoenix-based 7th District is safely blue and six Democrats are running. However, it looks like this will be a duel between state Rep. Ruben Gallego and former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who recently resigned her post in order to seek this seat.
Three Democratic House face potentially tough reelection contests. In the 1st District, three Republicans are competing to face Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick: rancher Gary Kiehne; state Rep. Adam Kwasman; and House Speaker Andy Tobin. We rate the general election as a Tossup.
In the 2nd District, Rep. Ron Barber faces a rematch with Republican Air Force veteran Martha McSally, whom he defeated narrowly in 2012. We also rate this as a Tossup. In the 9th District, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema will face either Air Force veteran Wendy Rogers or former NFL player Andrew Walter. We rate this as Lean Democratic. (Jeff Singer)
• Census: Here's a good lesson on not making sweeping assumptions about the way we live now, when your data could simply be responding to a small change in the instrument instead. In this case, we're talking about last week's New York Times story about Hispanics increasingly checking the "white" box on Census forms, which speculated that the phenomenon indicated accelerating assimilation.
However, University of Southern California sociology professor Manual Pastor notes a small but important detail: Starting with the 2008 American Community Survey, the Census Bureau started adding a bold-type note next to their race question, intended to discourage Hispanics from checking "some other race," that read: "For this census, Hispanic origins are not races." The move apparently succeeded, as the large jump in Hispanics identifying as white between the 2007 and 2008 surveys paralleled the increase between the 2000 and 2010 counts. (David Jarman)
• DCCC: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is the first of the four major party committees to start making broad-spectrum television ad reservations for the fall, with requests for $44 million in airtime covering 39 different House districts. Around $19 million will be used to go on offense 19 GOP-held seats while the remaining $25 million is devoted to defending 20 Democratic seats, with amounts for individual media markets ranging from $290,000 up to $2.8 million. (A full list is here.)
Most of the targets are what you'd expect to see if you're a close observer of House elections (and if you're reading this, you are), though a few are a little more surprising. Some of the Republican districts are a bit more of a reach for Democrats, such as IA-04 (Steve King) or AR-02 (Tim Griffin's open seat). Meanwhile, a few inclusions on the defensive side haven't appeared to be particularly vulnerable, like Elizabeth Esty (CT-05).
There are also some notable omissions, like freshman Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz (CA-36), or NV-03, where Erin Bilbray is trying to unseat second-term GOP Rep. Joe Heck. But this is just an initial list, and it can and will change, particularly because these are reservations, rather than outright purchases. So as new races heat up and others grow less competitive, resources will get shifted around.
• Demographics: The Census Bureau released a new array of city-level data last week, focused mostly on rates of growth. Not surprisingly, many of the fastest growing (by percentage) places with populations over 50,000 were in Texas, with four of the top 10 in the Austin metropolitan region alone. In terms of numeric growth, the biggest gainer was New York City, which picked up 61,000 people in 2013. It also found San Jose poised to become the nation's 10th city with over one million people.
Interpreting the data seems to pass through an ideological lens, though. USA Today focused on the fact that cities continue to grow at a rate faster than the overall national growth rate, calling it the "Decade of the City," while the Wall Street Journal called it "Signs of a Suburban Comeback," focusing on how the city growth rate is slower than it was in the years immediately following the financial crisis while the suburbs are growing at a faster rate than before (if still slower than cities).
Amusingly, both stories relied heavily on supportive quotes from the same demographer, William Frey. His own article on the subject (via his employer, the Brookings Institute) similarly splits the difference, saying that while the urban/suburban balance may be reverting more to the mean as suburban housing markets recover, city growth is still strong by recent historical standards. (David Jarman)
• DSCC, NRSC: Along with the DCCC (see item above), the two Senate committees are also making some large fall ad reservations. They've both blocked off time in Colorado (DSCC: $4.7 million, NRSC: $2.1 million) and Arkansas (DSCC: $3.6 million, NRSC: $1.75 million), while the DSCC has also reserved $1 million in New Hampshire.
• Senate: You're probably aware by now that Senate Class II (the one up this year) is very unrepresentative of the nation as a whole, disproportionately including smaller, rural states, and how that's part of what's putting Senate Democrats behind the eight-ball this year. You may not know the story behind how the states got assigned to the different Senate classes, though, and Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia has a neat description of how that transpired and what would happen if or when more states get added to the union.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the story, though, is a graph tracking what percentage of the nation's population falls in each class. Class II has always (or at least since 1800) been the smallest, representing barely more than 50 percent of the nation's population. The other two classes each represent nearly 75 percent of the population, though interestingly, Class I encompasses slightly more people than Class III, despite the fact that Class III has the most members (34, instead of the 33 in the other two classes). (David Jarman)