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• GA-Sen, IA-Sen: In a double-whammy of major retirement news, both Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Sen. Tom Harkin announced, on back-to-back days, they would not seek re-election next year. Chambliss, a Georgia Republican in his second term, has been experiencing considerable pressure from the right; despite his conservative voting record, he suggested a possible, maybe, kinda-sorta open-ness to perhaps increasing revenues, which is a huge apostasy. A top-tier primary challenge seemed very likely, and Chambliss evidently preferred to go out on his own terms, rather than risking getting turfed out on someone else's, so on Friday, he did just that.
Harkin, meanwhile, had represented Iowa in the Senate since 1985 (and in the House for a decade before that); at age 73, he'd likely have faced a stiff battle in the general election, though he's knocked off all comers despite frequently being a GOP target. On Saturday, Harkin acknowledged that he'd be 81 if he finished a sixth term and said, simply, "It's just time to step aside."
Both moves will set off a frenzy of interest by members of both parties in both states. In swingish but blue-tilting Iowa, it's conceivable that all four House members could engage. Much of the Senate discussion on the Democratic side has focused on fourth-term Rep. Bruce Braley, who represents the northeastern part of the state, though see our IA-Gov item below, because Braley had just indicated an open mind to a possible gubernatorial run. With Harkin's departure, though, he's likely national Democrats' top choice.
(continue reading below the fold)
Republicans, on the other hand, could have a classic establishment-versus-teabagger battle royale to contend with, as the perpetually entertaining darling of the far right, Rep. Steve King, was mulling a bid even before Harkin's retirement. The NRSC, one must assume, will be begging the more moderate Rep. Tom Latham (who represents Des Moines) to make a bid. In a one-on-one race, though, Latham could have a very hard time cobbling together a majority of the Republican primary vote against King. No matter what, this will be an expensive race for both sides.
As for Georgia, the list of Republicans looking to succeed Chambliss—some of whom had been contemplating a primary challenge before Friday's announcement—is already long. Politico rounds up a list of possible contenders:
Georgia Rep. Tom Price, who had expressed interest in challenging Chambliss in a primary, is "speaking with a number of folks across the state of Georgia" to decide whether he should run, his spokesman Ellen Carmichael said in an email.
Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston told POLITICO Friday that he is "definitely looking" at running. Rep. Paul Broun also had been weighing a primary against Chambliss; he did not react immediately to the retirement news.
Other names mentioned are Reps. Tom Graves and Phil Gingrey, former Georgia Secretary of State and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel, and former presidential candidate Herman Cain. Eric Tanenblatt, Gov. Sonny Perdue's former chief of staff and a major donor in Atlanta, is also seen as a potential candidate.
And another GOP congressman, Lynn Westmoreland, says he, too, is looking at the contest
. Contra Politico, though, Herman Cain
is already out, as is another prominent figure, Newt Gingrich
Meanwhile, a big question for Democrats will be whether they can seriously contest an open seat in Georgia, which has been reliably red for over a decade but where demographics seem to be slowly headed in Team Blue's direction. Roll Call's Joshua Miller obtained statements from two top potential recruits, Rep. John Barrow and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
Barrow says he has "no plans to run for anything else than re-election in the 12th district" but adds that he's "gratified" he's been touted as a candidate. Reed wouldn't even respond to the question at all, offering only his congratulations to Chambliss and saying it is not a day "to focus on politics." Obviously, though, that reads as a refusal to rule anything out. Politico also mentions one more Democrat: Keith Mason, a former chief of staff to Gov. Zell Miller who also served in the Clinton White House.
In any event, there will be no shortage of news out of both Georgia and Iowa in the coming weeks, and we will, as always, be staying on top of it all. (David Nir & Steve Singiser)
• AK-Sen: Meh, tea leaves. I don't even like tea. But this is at least a little bit amusing: Joe Miller, who has long been mentioned as a possible opponent for Dem Sen. Mark Begich, reportedly met with the NRSC to discuss a possible bid. Coulda just been Jerry Moran extending Miller a minor courtesy, but it's still kinda funny to see the guy who won a Republican primary two-and-a-half years ago, only to get washed right back out by a write-in effort in the general from the woman he beat, kiss the ring of the GOP establishment.
• CO-Sen, CO-06: GOP Rep. Mike Coffman says he has no plans to run against freshman Dem Sen. Mark Udall in 2014 and will seek re-election to the House. But even that route is far from awesome for him: Given how blue his district is, Coffman will be a top target for Democrats.
• MA-Sen: Blargh. What a messed up story. Based on unnamed, unquoted sources, the Boston Globe reported on Friday morning that conservative Dem Rep. Stephen Lynch will indeed make the plunge into the special election to replace John Kerry, which will take place following Kerry's expected confirmation as secretary of state. But then later in the day, Lynch himself contradicted the Globe:
US Representative Stephen F. Lynch told the Globe this afternoon that he hasn't yet made up his mind about running for the US Senate in the special election to fill John F. Kerry's seat. Just a day earlier, the strong message from the Lynch camp was that he would definitely be announcing his campaign next week.
Frustratingly, the paper doesn't provide Lynch's actual remarks. They should at least provide a quote so that readers can make up their own minds about Lynch's intentions, however squirrely—particularly since the Globe
apparently blew this story. I mean, "the strong message"? That's weak.
Anyhow, if Lynch does go forward, it would set up a clash in the primary with fellow Rep. Ed Markey, who has locked up establishment support from top to bottom. It's hard to imagine Lynch having a good shot in a two-way fight, and progressives will surely mobilize to stop him, but the Globe also makes sketchy mention of a new poll that supposedly has Markey up "by about 10 points" in a head-to-head.
However, the poll can't be taken at face value. It was paid for by the National Association of Government Employees, who I'm assuming are interested in getting Lynch into the race—despite his conservative votes on many issues, Lynch is a big union guy. What's more, the poll was conducted by David Paleologos of Suffolk University, who did a remarkable job discrediting himself last cycle when he announced he'd no longer survey Virginia or Florida because Romney had already "painted those states red." (Obama won both.)
And here's the real tell: In hypothetical general election matchups with ex-Sen. Scott Brown (who hasn't announced any plans yet), Markey trails 49-39 while Lynch is "only" behind 42-33. Those are a pretty cockamamie set of numbers. Are we supposed to believe that Markey is so polarizing compared to Lynch that he pushes Brown all the way from 42 to 49? Or that Lynch, despite his evidently lower name recognition, somehow convinces 7 percent of the electorate to at least withhold their support from Brown? I'm not really buying these results, particularly given the fragmentary way in which they've been released.
Meanwhile, the more trustworthy MassINC is out with its own poll of a hypothetical general election, and the numbers really sting for Democrats. Brown leads Markey 53-31, despite a much narrower 44-36 edge over Generic D. (Lynch wasn't tested.) MassINC's final poll of last year's Senate race had Elizabeth Warren beating Brown by 6; given that her final margin was around 7.5 percent, that's pretty accurate. The DSCC, however, insists that its internals don't resemble MassINC's numbers, with ED Guy Cecil saying: "No question anyone starts out with a name ID disadvantage just like our early Warren polls, but this poll is an outlier." Still, I'm going to hope we don't have to face a race against Sen. Bqhatevwr any time soon.
• ME-Sen: PPP's barrel of Maine miscellany includes independent Sen. Angus King's first post-election job approval ratings. He scores a 44-25, with Democrats strongly favoring him (63-11) and indies mostly positive (40-26). But his standing definitely appears to have eroded among Republicans, who give him a negative 20-45 mark. In PPP's first test (PDF) of Angus's numbers right after Olympia Snowe announced her retirement last year, he had 62-24 favorables overall, and even Republicans narrowly liked him (43-38). But obviously a partisan campaign has changed things (though also note that PPP is now asking about job approval, not favorability).
• AR-Gov: Whoa! Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, considered the Democratic frontrunner for the 2014 governor's race, unexpectedly dropped out on Friday afternoon. McDaniel had already been in the race for some time (somewhat controversially announcing all the way back in June), but he recently suffered what appeared to be a serious blow to his chances when he was forced to reveal that he'd had an affair with an attorney who had handled cases before the AG's office.
New reports also offered a separate problem for McDaniel: Apparently, he was more extensively involved in a lawsuit brought by his father's law firm against gun manufacturer Remington Arms, following a 1998 school shooting in Jonesboro, AR, than he'd previously let on. In response, McDaniel insisted that he's "a staunch defender of Second Amendment rights" and sought to minimize his role in a new statement just published on Friday morning.
Yet something obviously changed very abruptly for McDaniel, because he alluded to the same issues he was determined to fight past in the statement he issued announcing his departure. McDaniel confirmed that he exited the race because he grew "convinced that if I run for Governor, this campaign would be about me personally, rather than Arkansas's future." (McDaniel is term-limited as AG and cannot run for re-election.)
Now the big question is, who will run for Democrats instead? Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who'd been openly eyeing the race for some time, evidently decided to strike while the iron is hot. Late on Friday, Halter, who lost an intensely contested primary against former Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010, now says he will indeed make a bid for the governor's mansion. Halter's being a bit cagey ("next week I will take the first necessary step towards running"), and a formal announcement is planned later, but I'll give him a partial pass on this one since the McDaniel development seemed to take everyone by surprise, and no one wants to rush a campaign kickoff on a Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter (who'd also previously been mentioned as a possible candidate) says he, too, is considering an entry into the Democratic primary but offered no timetable.
• FL-Gov: According to various tea leaves, former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is apparently gearing up for a run for governor, though he's stonewalled the Miami Herald for three weeks about his intentions—before finally telling the paper he had nothing to say. That's basically the opposite of the usual dribs-and-drabs approach to teasing a campaign launch, but I'm sure it endears you to the local press even less. In any event, reporter Marc Caputo has more details on what Diaz would bring to the table for Democrats (both good and bad), and what kind of candidate he'd make (he's tight with Mike Bloomberg, barf), so click through if you'd like to learn more.
• IA-Gov: The other week, a surprising report emerged that Dem Rep. Bruce Braley might be considering a challenge to Gov. Terry Branstad in 2014—surprising because Braley had long been viewed as a likely successor to Dem Sen. Tom Harkin, who of course just announced his retirement. But now Braley himself is hinting that a gubernatorial bid might be possible. In new remarks, he says that he's "planning to run for re-election in 2014," but added that "things can change." Braley also smacked back at Branstad, who had previously snarked that no member of Congress had been elected governor of Iowa since 1920:
"It's kind of interesting that he would ask you to ask me that question. ... I had breakfast the day after the inauguration with my good friend Governor Jay Inslee of the State of Washington who served in congress with me, ran for governor and was elected. ... Mike Pence, a Republican congressman from Indiana, just got sworn in as the governor of Indiana and my friend Mary Fallin who came in with my class in 2006 is now the governor of Oklahoma," Braley says.
"Are people in Iowa so different from the people in those three states that they would never consider someone who had served in congress as a governor? I don't think so."
I always love congressmen who are also political junkies!
• IL-Gov: Uh, does Pat Quinn really want to go this route? The embattled Democratic governor, who is likely to face a primary challenge thanks to his abysmal standing in the polls, just launched this broadside at one of his most likely opponents:
"You have to deal with the House, if you're governor, every single day, and I think it's important that no members have conflicts of interest, and those who are in executive office shouldn't have conflicts of interest," Quinn said. "Especially as we clean up from my two predecessors, who are still in jail right now at the same time, we want to clean up government."
This nasty jab is a reference to the Madigan family: Attorney General Lisa Madigan hasn't ruled out a run against Quinn, and her father is powerful state House Speaker Mike Madigan, who has served in that role (with only one minor interruption) for almost 30 years. As Capitol Fax's Rich Miller puts it, "Suggesting that Lisa Madigan could wind up in prison because of conflicts of interest between herself and the Speaker ain't gonna go down too well." And Miller further opines that the legislature, loyal to the elder Madigan, may decide to make life hell for Quinn if he keeps this up. Personally, I think Quinn is looking pretty doomed when it comes to renomination, so maybe he just has nothing left to lose.
Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to out-do Democrats when it comes to sheer nastiness—and succeeding:
U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, who's mulling a 2014 Republican bid for governor, chastised a pair of potential rivals Thursday, saying state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard have "proven nothing more than they can lose an election."
"Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results," said Schock, 31, a three-term congressman and former state lawmaker from Peoria who held forth on Illinois politics after a speech to the Civic Federation in Chicago.
Brady fired back by saying "he's hearing 'more people starting to question whether (Schock) can rerun for Congress' than whether Schock will run for governor," according to the Chicago Tribune
. More cat fud like this, please!
• NH-Gov: Conservative activist Kevin Smith, who got blitzed in last year's GOP primary, says that he hasn't ruled out another gubernatorial run in 2014. (Remember, New Hampshire elects its governor every two years.) Smith lost by 40 points to attorney Ovide Lamontagne, who received a much bigger-than-expected 12-point thumping at the hands of Democrat Maggie Hassan. That makes me think Hassan starts off in decent shape, and I don't think Smith has the chops to beat her.
• NJ-Gov: No surprise: Democratic state Sen. Richard Codey, who has also served as acting governor more than once, will not run for governor. Codey had been looking at a bid for a while but was apparently underwhelmed by the response he got from national Democratic groups on a recent trip to Washington, DC. And like every other Democrat, he's also trailed Gov. Chris Christie by comic-book-sized margins in every public poll.
• VA-Gov: There are plenty of candidates for "worst pollster of 2012," but one of the weirdest was Roanoke College, who consistently found George Allen ahead in last year's Senate race—except for the time they had Tim Kaine up by 10—and predicted he'd win by five points. (That's how much he lost by.) After the election, their chief, Harry Wilson, admitted that he was "drinking that Republican Kool-Aid" and was deeply unhappy with his outfit's performance.
But it's not clear that he's stopped quaffing that sweet red beverage, because Roanoke's new poll of this year's gubernatorial race is just ridic. In a two-way matchup, Republican Ken Cuccinelli leads Democrat Terry McAuliffe 33 to 26, with an absurd 41 percent undecided. No public poll has found a lead like that for Cuccinelli, and anyhow, topline numbers that low simply make no sense. For what it's worth, it's 25-19 Kooch in a three-way race, with GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who has threatened an independent bid, at 12. Oh yeah!
• WI-Gov: I'd be extremely surprised if Dem Rep. Ron Kind decided to challenge Gov. Scott Walker next year, so I wouldn't read too much into the fact that he's not ruling it out with an "I think it's too early for that" wave of the hand. But you don't have to rely on just my opinion: Kind said the same thing in advance of last year's gubernatorial recall, saying, "We have to wait and see how this develops." Obviously he didn't run then, and while past performance is no guarantee of future results, I see no reason to expect a different outcome this time.
• Census: Great news! The Census Bureau has, for the first time, released demographic statistics for the new congressional districts of the 113th Congress, based on its annual American Community Survey. Unfortunately, for the moment, it looks like you can only download one district at a time through the bureau's "Easy Stats" page, but hey, it's a start.
• Electoral College: Good news: It sounds like Virginia's electoral college-rigging scheme is on the verge of collapse, though it's not because the GOP collectively came to its senses. Rather, a lone Republican state senator, Ralph Smith, says he's opposed to the measure, and since the chamber is divided 20-20 between the two parties (with the lieutenant governor breaking ties), that means the plan is all but doomed.
Amusingly, Smith is worried about what would happen "if every state does it that way," which would of course help Republicans for the same reason they hold the majority in the House despite having lost the national House vote last year: District lines overwhelmingly favor the GOP. If every state used this system, Democrats would probably need to win the popular vote by 5 percent in order to win the White House, thus ending American democracy. I suppose it's possible Smith is actually concerned about that prospect, but it really doesn't matter as long as he kills the bill in committee.
(In fact, Smith is actually the second Senate Republican to express opposition. Jill Holtzman Vogel, who abstained from the initial subcommittee vote, told ThinkProgress that "it's very unlikely" she'd vote for the legislation if it came to the floor.)
Meanwhile, any similar aims have definitely run aground in Florida, where Republican state House Speaker Will Weatherford utterly derided the idea. Of course, given Florida's red tilt (despite Obama's two victories there), implementing an electoral-college-by-congressional-district plan in the Sunshine State would definitely hurt the GOP, since they need all 29 EVs there in order to have any shot at the presidency. So it's easy to stand opposed if you're a Florida Republican, though somewhat remarkably, state Senate President Don Gaetz (also a GOPer) says he prefers relying on the national popular vote! That would be awesome!
But watch out: Michigan is about to get in on the electoral college scamming action, too. Republican state Rep. Pete Lund says he'll reintroduce legislation to divvy up his state's EVs by CD, and GOP Gov. Rick Snyder says he's "open minded" about the idea. Given the kinds of radical legislation the supposedly moderate Snyder has embraced in the recent past, I put nothing past him.
• NY Redistricting: One of the most repugnant pieces of bullshit served up by Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he made his odious "deal" with Republicans on redistricting last year was the prospect of an independent commission to draw lines in future decades. It's absolute crap, though, and should horrify both progressive partisans and good-government types alike, albeit for different reasons. The best takedown appeared in the editorial pages of the Albany Times-Union, which pointed out that this supposedly independent panel would simply be made up of appointees of members of the legislature—in other words, no different from before. That's where the goo-goos are up in arms; for progressives, you'll be incensed by the fact that the proposed board would be composed of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, which is absurd in a state as blue as New York. Here's the real kicker, though:
Moreover, the commission would have an even number of members, a setup that would foster deadlock, just as it does on the state's partisan, ineffective Board of Elections. And if, somehow, the commission overcomes that built-in dysfunction, the maps still have to go to the Legislature for final approval. If the maps fail to get approval twice, the entire process of redistricting is handed back to the Legislature, as if this "reform" had never happened.
This is banana republican. Fortunately, New Yorkers have the power to stop this: Because this nonsense is actually in the form of a constitutional amendment, it has to go before voters in 2014. So we have the chance to vote against this monstrosity, and we damn well should. The problem is that there isn't any wealthy or powerful constituency opposed to this, but hopefully an alliance of good-government groups and liberal organizations can derail this outrage. And expect to hear me rail against it plenty over the next two years.
• VA Redistricting: Virginia Republicans' other electoral shenanigan currently in the works also seems to be running off the rails: According to unnamed operatives and politicians in both parties, both GOP House Speaker Bill Howell and Gov. Bob McDonnell are unhappy with the Senate's attempts to force through an underhanded mid-decade redistricting of the chamber's own map and are looking for ways to nuke it. Explains the Washington Post:
The governor and speaker are said to be struggling over whether to advance the plan or kill it. If they opt to do it in, the question becomes whether Howell should dispatch it by way of a parliamentary ruling or McDonnell by way of a veto.
If you're really so displeased that you're leaking the fact that you're trying to undermine legislation passed by members of your own party, are you really going to go ahead and then embrace it? That would cause even more problems for McDonnell and Republican leaders in Richmond than this demented legislation already has. I also have to wonder if the meltdown over the Virginia GOP's electoral college-rigging scheme might blow back in this direction as well: If the wind goes out of Republican sails over one controversial bill, the party might find itself in the doldrums over the next hot-button issue as well.
• WATN?: If I were 80 years old and had just lost a fight for renomination after a long career in office, I think I'd just sit back, enjoy a few Old Fashioneds, and maybe read some books on my Kindle that I've been meaning to get to. Perhaps former Indiana GOP Sen. Dick Lugar is planning to do all that as well, but he's also taking a teaching gig at Indiana University. He'll become a professor at IU's new School of Global and International Studies and will also head up a special program with former Rep. Lee Hamilton.