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• VA-Gov: Once in a while, I do get things right. Back in June, Republicans formally did away with their primary and instead choose their gubernatorial nominee via convention. Concentrating decision-making power in the hands of the hardest-core activists was only going to benefit Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a movement conservative darling, and make life impossible for Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the establishment choice who'd patiently waited his turn to run for governor. And what did I say at the time?
I'm not even sure how Bolling has any shot at the nomination now and I wouldn't be surprised if he gave up.
On Wednesday, bowing to the inevitable, Bolling did indeed drop out of the race
. I don't even think he could have won an ordinary primary, but a convention was definitely a fridge too far—something he himself recognized in saying that party regulars had put up "too many obstacles for us to overcome" by deliberately choosing the convention route.
But Bolling did manage to surprise me with this wild curveball: In response to a direct question about whether he might run as an independent instead, Bolling explicitly refused to rule out the notion, saying: "I learned a long time ago in politics that you shouldn't ever say never." The query was prompted by his declaration that he was only "suspending," not ending, his campaign—and not even his campaign in general, but rather only his "campaign for the Republican Party's nomination for Governor of Virginia." Bolling even said he intends to remain involved "as a more independent voice." It's hard to see how Bolling wouldn't hurt Cuccinelli far more than the eventual Democratic nominee if he were on the ballot as an indie, but I'd love to see some polling of a three-way.
(Oh, and nuts to any talk about Bolling seeking re-election. Get a load of how bad the blood is here: "Under normal circumstances, I would be open to the possibility of running for another term as lieutenant governor, but I would not be interested in running on a statewide ticket with Mr. Cuccinelli." However, a whole ton of other Republicans have already declared their plans to run for lite gov, though, and guess what? That nod, as with the gubernatorial slot, will also get decided via convention. So it's possible Bolling would have even gotten squeezed out of renomination to his own job. Double ouch.)
As for the governor's race, I'm going to say that this move is not a major positive for Democrats, and if anything might be a negative. Bolling tended to slightly out-perform Cuccinelli in hypothetical head-to-head matchups with Democrats, and the Cooch definitely has worse favorability ratings with left-leaning voters, so there's little doubt Dems would prefer to face him in the general. But that was already extremely likely—as I say, it's why Bolling dropped out.
Still, though, a nomination fight would have pushed the already-mega-wingnutty Cuccinelli even further to the right (and forced him to spend some money), whereas now he can try to moderate himself a bit. That said, Cuccinelli is a true believer and probably is intellectually disinclined to changing his profile—and in any event, it's not like he doesn't already have a long track record of extreme statements and actions that can be used against him. So for all this sturm und drang, I expect Bolling's departure to change little—assuming, of course, he doesn't make a third-party bid.
P.S. There's also a little bit of news on the Democratic side, where "sources close to" ex-Rep. Tom Perriello, a favorite of many progressives, tell the Huffington Post that he's considering a run for governor. That would set him up (in a normal primary—Dems don't do the convention thing) against 2009 candidate and former DNC chief Terry McAuliffe.
• DE-Sen: This is sketchy as all get-out, but local reporter Jonathan Starkey suggests that Beau Biden could challenge Sen. Chris Coons in the Democratic primary—even though Biden has already said he plans to seek re-election as Delaware's attorney general. I really can't see this happening, particularly since it would look like a real betrayal of Coons, who got into the race back in 2010 when moderate ex-Rep. Mike Castle looked set to crush all comers—and when Biden would not.
Coons lucked out tremendously, of course, when lunatic Christine O'Donnell won the GOP nod, and Biden's only "justification" for running would be that he's, well, Beau Biden. So this truly does not seem like a winning move, which is why I doubt Starkey's throw-away line is anything other than pure speculation. (And yeah, even though Coons won office just two years ago, he's already up for re-election since his first race was actually a special election to fill out the final four years of Joe Biden's term.)
• GA-Sen: Two well-known names are taking themselves out of consideration for the 2014 Georgia Senate race: Herman Cain, who should never run for any office anywhere, and John Barrow, who would be quite wise to stick with his current gig. Barrow, one of the very last remaining Blue Dog Democrats holding down a conservative Southern seat (GA-12), would need some Richard Mourdock-style help to even have a shot statewide—and even then, I wonder whether that would be enough.
But you know who just might be enough? RedState founder and CNN analyst (god, I wish I were joking about that last bit) Erick Erickson, who says he's giving "prayerful consideration" to a run against Sen. Saxby Chambliss in the GOP primary. Erickson has a lifetime's worth of idiotic and inflammatory statements under his belt (here's a good recent example of the former, courtesy Dana Houle, and here's one of the latter), so if he could somehow unseat a sitting senator (which I seriously doubt), he'd make for excellent fun in the general election. This is all probably b.s., though, since Erickson pulled a Palin and quit halfway through his one term in elected office, as a member of the Macon city council. But we can dream!
• KY-Sen, KY-Gov: Dem Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson confirms that he will not run for Senate in 2014, but says that he's "not ruling out" a bid for governor in 2015, when the man he works for, Gov. Steve Beshear, is term-limited out of office.
• NH-Sen: On behalf of the PCCC, Public Policy Polling has what looks like the first 2014 Senate poll we've seen. They've tested freshman Dem Sen. Jeanne Shaheen against the man she defeated in 2008, John Sununu, and find her with a solid 53-42 lead. Of course, neither Sununu nor anyone else has stepped forward to challenge Shaheen, but he probably has the highest name recognition of any potential candidate (though he also probably has more baggage than anyone else, thanks to his family name). Regardless of who she winds up facing, though, Shaheen has to be pretty happy with her 51-36 job approval score, given how weak most politicians' ratings have been these last several years.
• WV-Sen: Here's one more detail to add to the insta-drama in the GOP over Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's entry into the West Virginia Senate race: Karl Rove's American Crossroads has come out with a statement in defense of Capito, who's been attacked by purist wingnut groups over her insufficient fealty to movement conservative causes. Says Crossroads: "It's distasteful to see Washington politicos clubbing Republican candidates right out of the gate—especially ones with the guts to challenge an entrenched incumbent, and who enjoy the broad base of local support that Shelly Moore Capito appears to have." Nothing like a little cat fud to start the new cycle off right!
• CA-Gov: We've gone on at length about how eviscerated the GOP bench is in California, but I'm never opposed to providing further examples, so here's one. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a supposedly former member of the anti-immigration nutjobs known as the "Minutemen," says he's considering a gubernatorial bid in 2014. If that name sounds at all familiar (though I'm betting it won't, since he really is a nobody), it's because Donnelly tried to bring a loaded handgun on board a plane in his carry-on luggage earlier this year. Nice going, genius.
• NJ-Gov, NJ-Sen: Here are those Quinnipiac numbers testing GOP Gov. Chris Christie against a variety of potential Democratic contenders, and they're basically the same as what Rutgers found a day earlier—so in other words, exactly what you'd expect. The carnage (with mid-October trendlines in parentheses):
• 53-35 vs. Newark Mayor Cory Booker (46-42)
• 57-30 vs. state Sen. Richard Codey (47-41)
• 61-23 vs. state Sen. Barbara Buono (49-33)
• 62-20 vs. Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (50-31)
• 62-21 vs. Assemblyman John Wisniewski
The one thing Quinnipiac has that Rutgers doesn't are, in fact, those trendlines, which illustrate just how stark an effect Hurricane Sandy's had on this (hypothetical) race. As I've said, you have to expect Christie's newly sky-high approval ratings to sag, but the point is that Democrats have to make up their minds now, and top-tier contenders might be unwilling to bet their political futures on a Christie fade.
In case someone (or more than one someone) does, though, Quinnipiac offers their first primary matchups, kitchen-sink style. No one's actually running yet, but unsurprisingly, Booker has a huge lead, taking 41 percent. Codey's the only other candidate who even registers, with 12, while Buono, Greenwald, and Wisniewski (all with name recognition in the teens) are at 4, 1, and 1 respectively.
Though apparently not everyone's been scared off by Christie's newfound strength: State Senate President Stephen Sweeney—whose name hasn't been tested in any recent polling—is reportedly planning to run for governor, but only if Booker declines. Booker recently confirmed he's considering a bid but didn't offer a timetable for a decision, saying only that he'll make up his mind "as quickly as possible."
Interestingly, though, it's not just Christie whose standing has improved: Both Barack Obama and New Jersey's two Democrat senators, Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, have also seen their job approvals rise in the Garden State. While Obama and Menendez might be experiencing a bit of a post-election bounce, more notable are Lautenberg's numbers, which, at 49-33, are some of the best he's seen in a while. Importantly, he's at 65-14 approvals among Democrats, which may be a factor in whether any Dems try to challenge the 88-year-old Lautenberg in the 2014 primary. (Of course, he could finally re-retire, but Lautenberg seems to have little interest in giving up his seat, particularly since he didn't seem happy doing so once before, back in 2000.)
• WA-Gov: Washington's gubernatorial race had some very superficial similarities to the presidential race—charismatic but vague Dem vs. a stiff Republican who couldn't decide if he was a moderate or a conservative—and here's one more basis to add to that comparison: the Dems' ground game advantage was decisive. The Dems spent $2 million on GOTV with 55 paid field workers, while the GOP spent $300K with 15 paid field workers. The campaign of Gov.-elect Jay Inslee made a million phone calls and 300K door knocks in the last five days, and their efforts may be seen in the fact that Dem-heavy King County's turnout was 84%, well ahead of the state's average at 81%. (David Jarman)
• AZ-02: Dem Rep. Ron Barber recently underwent surgery to remove what is described (at least in the headline) as a "minor" tumor on his tongue and expected to return to work next week. We wish him a speedy recovery.
• CO-06: I mentioned Democrat Joe Miklosi's narrow loss to GOP Rep. Mike Coffman the other day specifically because late-counted votes wound up narrowing his margin considerably from election night, moving the spread from about five points to less than two. But there's another point I'd like to make as well, one which I glanced over very briefly in this post about whether Libertarian candidates cost Republicans any seats. While there was indeed a Libertarian, Patrick Provost, who took about 8,600 votes on the ballot here, almost certainly more important was the presence of independent Kathy Polhemus, who amassed over 13,400 votes.
Polhemus matters more not just because of her larger vote share, which was almost twice as big as Coffman's 7,000-vote win over Miklosi, but because she's a former Democrat who even maxed out to Obama in 2008. Polhemus had a bit of a profile as the founder of the charity Dress for Success and self-funded almost $100K. She actually tried to run to the middle, bizarrely berating Miklosi as "beholden to the far left of the party," but it's hard to imagine that her candidacy hurt Coffman more than Miklosi.
Now, it might also make sense to argue that Provost dug into Coffman's share, but he didn't even file an FEC report. So it seems reasonable to conclude that Polhemus had the bigger impact, and even if she didn't hand the race to Coffman, it's likely that this already-tight contest would have been even closer had she not appear on the ballot. (Indeed, Miklosi supporters begged her not to run.) And it's yet another reason why Coffman should be at the very top of Democratic target lists for 2014.
• IL-02: Just in case the Democratic primary wasn't already enough of a clown show, disgraced ex-Rep. Mel Reynolds is now jumping into the game. And I'm not using the word "disgraced" lightly: If you aren't familiar with Reynolds, he served a little over one term before resigning from Congress after being convicted of "12 counts of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography," in the wake of his statutory rape of a 16-year-old campaign volunteer. He was also later convicted of "15 unrelated counts of bank fraud and lying to SEC investigators."
Remarkably, Bill Clinton commuted Reynolds' bank fraud sentence, and Reynolds later tried to reclaim his old seat in 2004, receiving all of 6 percent in the Democratic primary against then-Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (the man who replaced him following his resignation in 1995). I can't imagine how delusional he must be to think he has any future politics, though I'd love to meet a 2012-era Mel Reynolds donor. I mean, who the hell would give money to that guy? Actually, on second thought, am I nuts? I definitely don't want to meet anyone like that!
• NC-07: It looks like the recount in North Carolina's 7th District is just about over, with 11 of 12 counties completing their review. Dem Rep. Mike McIntyre now has a 663-vote lead over Republican David Rouzer, up slightly from his 655-vote edge before the recount began. And even once results are final in the one laggard, Duplin County, it's incredibly unlikely for the overall tally to change. Rouzer could actually seek a second recount (a so-called "hand-eye" recount, where paper ballots are examined manually, rather than fed through counting machines again), but again, it's almost inconceivable that such an effort would alter the outcome.
• NY-23: Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa, who surprised a lot of folks by losing to GOP Rep. Tom Reed by only about four points despite getting heavily outspent, says he's thinking about a repeat bid in 2014. However, Shinagawa says it was financially stressful to take a leave from his day job for a year, and adds that whether he can get some outside help "from unions, the DCCC, environmental groups" will play a role in his thinking.
• TN-04: State Rep. Kevin Brooks, whom we mentioned even before the election, looks like he's the first Republican to publicly moot a challenge to scandal-plagued Rep. Scott DesJarlais. He did not provide a timetable for a decision, though.
• NY-St. Sen: Is there anyone more permanently butthurt in New York politics than Jeffrey Klein, leader of the breakaway pack of four state Senate Democrats known as the "Independent Democratic Conference"? Thanks to this renegade quartet, which has long cozied up to Republicans, it looks like Democrats won't be able to assert control over the Senate next year, even though a majority of senators were elected this month with a (D) after their names. Klein's been cagey ever since election day, but in a new interview with the New York Times, he's now made it clear he prefers some sort of power-sharing agreement between Dean Skelos's Republicans and the IDC.
But there's no ideological dispute between Klein's gang of wreckers and the rest of the Democratic Party—Klein recently claimed he wanted to "further our progressive Democratic agenda." Rather, it's all about egos, since Klein seems to have personal issues with whatever passes for the mainstream Democratic leadership these days, and vice-versa. But however sad-sack Senate Dems might be, it's Klein who wants to make deals with the Republicans. Somehow, he's even tortured himself into claiming that he's doing the right thing:
"We're not empowering a Republican majority; we're talking about a coalition government. I consider myself a very good Democrat."
Considers himself a very good Democrat? That would definitely be Jeff Klein, party of one.
• Ohio: You might remember that around a year ago, I analyzed the question of "Which swing state is swingiest?" and, over the last 25 years or so, the state that was reliably the closest to national norms was Ohio. Well, the numbers-crunchers at Univ. of Minnesota's Smart Politics added another 150 years to the timeframe... and still found that Ohio is the nation's swingiest state, over the period from 1828 until now. The Buckeye State has had both the lowest average victory margin (8.8%) and the highest percentage (49%) of under-5% margins over the years. (David Jarman)