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• VAWA: In the previous Digest, I flagged GOP Rep. Tim Walberg's fraudulent claim that he supported the Violence Against Women Act even though he voted against final passage of the legislation last week. Walberg's claim is pathetically specious: He voted for a poison-pill GOP "alternative" that was DOA before roll was even called, on account of the fact that it deliberately left out protections for LGBT and Native American women. But as I suspected, he's not alone: Indeed, my Daily Kos colleague Kaili Joy Gray has cataloged several other Republicans peddling the same bullshit, including the likes of Steve King and Michele Bachmann! Please stay on high alert for anyone else running this scam, because I suspect the entire GOP is in on this one.
Well, maybe not the whole party, because when you're talking about Republicans, there are always exceptions who need to prove they're even crazier than their brethren. In this case, I'm talking about the 27 members of the House GOP who voted against both bills: the real VAWA and the sham version. Here's a full list of these pieces of work:
There are some real winners on this roster, outcasts like Steve Stockman and Louie Gohmert who live to make John Boehner cry. Unfortunately, though, almost everyone here sits in an untouchably red district—but there are some exceptions worth pointing out. For instance, I spot one actual Senate candidate, Georgia's Paul Broun, who offers Democrats yet another reason to root for him to win the GOP primary. And there's also at least one potential Senate candidate as well, Arkansas's Tom Cotton.
Other notable outliers include Kristi Noem, the only woman on the list, and Scott Garrett, the solitary vote from the northeast. Longtime observers know that Garrett is the most conservative Republican who hails from north of the Mason-Dixon line; he voted against reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act in 2006, for instance. He's proven very difficult to dislodge, but given how far to the right he is, Democrats almost have to find a way to challenge him.
• GA-Sen: Sophomore GOP Rep. Tom Graves, who was first elected to Congress in a 2010 special election, says he won't run for Georgia's open Senate seat. The decision is not surprising: A number of heavyweights are still considering the race, and the role of designated lunatic has already been filled by fellow Rep. Paul Broun.
But it seems like Graves, who rode into office as a tea partier, isn't quite so interested in playing the conservative outsider anymore: Reporter Daniel Malloy notes that Graves recently voted to increase the debt ceiling, for instance, and Graves himself described his current job as "just the beginning of a long journey." At 43, he's quite a bit younger than the senior members of his state's delegation and now seems to prefer establishing himself as a leader of the next generation of Georgia Republicans rather than taking on the old bulls.
• LA-Sen: Here's another Republican congressman who's opting against a Senate bid: Rep. Charles Boustany, who only began openly floating his name just a couple of weeks ago. Boustany's "moderate" profile (moderate for today's GOP, that is) would probably have really hindered him against more conservative opponents, so this move is unsurprising. The real question now is whether there will still be a Republican pileup, or whether the establishment will coalesce around one major option to take on Dem Sen. Mary Landrieu.
• MA-Sen: On Friday, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO voted against endorsing either Stephen Lynch or Ed Markey in the Democratic primary for Senate. Lynch in particular had been making a play for the labor federation's backing but he failed to secure the two-thirds support necessary of the group's executive board. Because Lynch has been counting on unions to power him to victory, this decision has generally been portrayed as a blow to his hopes. However, the constituent unions that make up the AFL are all still presumably free to make endorsements on their own.
• NE-Sen: State AG Jon Bruning says he will not run for Nebraska's newly open Senate seat and will instead seek re-election to his current post. This is no surprise, seeing as Bruning's history with Senate races isn't particularly good: He was the establishment favorite (up to a point) in last year's GOP primary but lost to the unheralded Deb Fischer; and in 2007, he briefly sought the seat that's now up for grabs before making way for Mike Johanns, who unexpectedly decided to retire last month.
• NJ-Sen: Sweet Jesus, what scumbaggery:
An escort who appeared on a video claiming Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) paid her for sex has told Dominican Republic police that she was instead paid to make up the claims in a tape recording and has never met or seen the senator before, according to court documents and two people briefed on her claim. [...]
The escort was one of two women who taped videos that seems to support a tipster's allegations that Menendez had patronized prostitutes while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.
FBI agents conducting interviews in the Dominican Republic have found no evidence to back up the tipster's allegations, according to two people briefed on their work. [...]
"It's amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a Web site can drive that type of story into the mainstream, but that's what they've done successfully," Menendez said last month. "Now, nobody can find them. No one ever met them. No one ever talked to them, but that's where we're at. So the bottom line is all of those smears are absolutely false and, you know, that's the bottom line."
Those videos, by the way, first appeared on the right-wing rag Daily Caller, raising the question of whether the Daily Caller was out to get Menendez, or whether they were someone else's willing dupes. I'm going to bet the latter, though we may never find out.
• CA-Gov: Looks like former GOP Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado may interested in a suicide mission: taking on Gov. Jerry Brown in next year's election. Despite the impossible odds, Maldonado says he is "seriously thinking about" a gubernatorial bid. Ol' Abel's been on a bit of a losing streak lately, getting ousted as LG in 2010 by Gavin Newsom and then falling to Rep. Lois Capps in CA-24 last year. Prior to that, he lost a GOP primary for state controller in 2006. Fourth time's the charm?
• CT-Gov: Lots of Republicans seem to be interested in Connecticut's next gubernatorial race, so here's another one: State Sen. Toni Boucher isn't ruling out a bid of her own.
• ME-Gov: This could be really big news: For the first time, Dem Rep. Mike Michaud has acknowledged that he's "looking at" a possible gubernatorial bid, though he cautions that he has not "set any timelines on making a final decision." A PPP poll in late January showed Michaud as the strongest possible Democrat to take on GOP Gov. Paul LePage: In a head-to-head matchup, Michaud crushes him by a giant-size 57-36 margin.
But independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who finished second in the 2010 contest, has already announced another run, and thanks to his left-leaning views, he pulls votes almost exclusively from Michaud in PPP's three-way test. That scenario hands LePage a narrow 34-30 win, with Cutler taking 26 percent—something that may well be the biggest obstacle for Michaud. Still, Cutler's never witnessed the firepower of the fully armed and operational battle station that a DGA-backed Michaud bid would represent, and I'd be willing to bet that Democratic internal polls show a path to victory that involves blasting Cutler into Alderaan-sized chunks. May the Force be with you, Mike Michaud.
• PA-Gov: According to PoliticsPA, state Auditor General Jack Wagner has started circulating petitions to get on the ballot for the Pittsburgh mayoral race, suddenly left open by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's abrupt decision not to seek re-election. We're filing this under PA-Gov, though, because Wagner was a possible gubernatorial candidate; running for mayor probably means it's a lot less likely that he'll make a statewide bid, though the primary is in May, so if he were to lose, he conceivably still could run in 2014.
• CO-06: Either time heals all wounds, or Michael Bennet is just a true team player: Late on Friday afternoon, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff blasted out an email saying that Bennett—the man he tried to oust as senator in a 2010 primary—had endorsed him for his House bid. But a Democrat endorsing a Democrat... what's the angle? Well, we're still over a year away from the primary, but it seems like the establishment is rallying around Romanoff and hoping to keep the field clear; Bennet's backing just provides another brick in the wall.
However, two of the most prominent potential contenders for the Dem nomination have already said no (ex-state Rep. Karen Middleton and state Sen. Linda Newell), so the sailing already looked pretty smooth for Romanoff. Perhaps, though, this effort is aimed at deterring a wealthy wildcard like Perry Haney, who sought this seat for a few months last cycle before abruptly dropping out. (For what it's worth, Romanoff is also claiming the endorsements of "every Democratic legislator" in the district.) Or maybe Democrats just want to put vulnerable GOP Rep. Mike Coffman on the defensive as early as possible.
• CT-04: I can't possibly imagine Linda McMahon would try a third run for office after her $100 million debacle in back-to-back Senate losses, and indeed, she's already said she has "absolutely no plans to run for office again." But that will never stop the speculators from speculating: Greenwich Time reports (based on an unnamed source) that the local GOP has "quietly tried to gauge McMahon's interest" in running against Dem Rep. Jim Himes in CT-04. Props to reporter Neil Vigdor, though, who doesn't hesitate to throw cold water on the idea, noting that McMahon only won 46 percent of the vote in the 4th last year. What's more, Himes crushed his reasonably well-financed GOP opponent by a 60-40 margin, so I'm actually inclined to believe McMahon—for once.
• MN-06: Wealthy hotelier Jim Graves may be interested in a rematch with the singular Michele Bachmann, whom he nearly unseated last year. Graves sent out an email to his supporters on Monday attacking Bachmann for her vote opposing the Violence Against Women Act (a vote she's been trying to hide from), which is the kind of thing people do when they're angling to run for office again.
Though Graves came very close to beating Bachmann in November (losing by less than 2 percent), this is an incredibly tough district just thanks to its demographics: Mitt Romney carried it 57-42. It's a testament to Bachmann's unique ability to turn off Republican voters that Graves even came so close. If he did manage to win, though, he'd face a much more generic R opponent in 2016, which would, in its own way, be an even harder race. In any event, Graves previously said he'll decide by April 1, so we'll know soon.
• NC-10: Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy announced late last week that she'll run against GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry next year instead of seeking re-election to her current position. Bellamy tried to do the same thing last year, but lost badly in the Democratic primary to then-state Rep. Patsy Keever. Keever herself went on to lose to McHenry by 14 points, similar to Mitt Romney's 17-point margin of victory. Given demographics like that, I can't see how Bellamy could win barring a monster wave or a remarkable scandal engulfing McHenry.
• LA Mayor: Normally, when you have two leading candidates up double digits on election eve, the identity of the candidates who will make it into the runoff election might appear to be a foregone conclusion. In this case, though, in the words of ESPN football dude Lee Corso: "Not so fast, my friend." While it is true that the new LA Times/USC poll has Democratic city Councilman Eric Garcetti (27 percent) and city Controller Wendy Greuel (25 percent) pacing the field, the results of the survey are far more complex.
For one thing, there are still double digits undecided. But, more notably, a simply absurd 46 percent of the potential electorate are still not firmly in the camp of one of the five leading candidates. That means that even though Republican Kevin James (15 percent) and Democratic Councilwoman Jan Perry (14 percent) are a ways back, they are still very much part of the election night equation. The only foregone conclusion seems to be that Latino businessman Emanuel Pleitez is too far afield to make the cut. He's sitting at just 5 percent of the vote, and Garcetti's roots in the Latino community seem to be cutting off Pleitez's oxygen.
P.S. The top two candidates in Tuesday's primary will advance to a May 21 runoff. (Steve Singiser)
• Demographics: The Center for American Progress has made some projections about the growing Latino share of the electorate in coming years. If you thought 2012 was big, wait for 2016: The number of eligible Latino voters is poised to grow from 23.7 million to 27.7 million over the next four years, a 17 percent increase. They also break out some state-by-state numbers, and while the biggest gains in terms of raw numbers, unsurprisingly, will be in California, Texas, and Florida, some of the other biggest gaining states are in the South: North Carolina, Georgia, and even Alabama. (David Jarman)
• DOMA: Late last week, congressional Democrats joined many others (including President Obama) and filed an amicus brief (PDF) urging the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. The vast majority of the party signed on, including 40 senators and 172 members of the House. But that obviously means a whole bunch of elected Democrats did not add their names to the long list of signatories: 15 senators and 29 representatives.
Most of the non-signers aren't too unexpected: Many hail from red states or districts. A number are part of the Congressional Black Caucus or Congressional Hispanic Caucus, some of whose members tend to be somewhat socially conservative even though represent blue turf. But there are also a bunch of real shockers, like Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, both of whom cut very progressive profiles. And then there are a couple of guys who are no surprise at all: Reps. Dan Lipinski (IL-03) and Jim Cooper (TN-05). We already had plenty of reasons to primary both of these guys; here's yet another.
P.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, running in the Massachusetts special Senate primary, was not listed as a signer but he's blaming an "email glitch" as the reason.