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• SC-01: The conventional wisdom—and the polling—turned out to be right: Ex-Gov. Mark Sanford handily beat former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic on Tuesday night in the GOP runoff for the SC-01 special election to replace Tim Scott. Sanford had far greater name recognition and a lot more money, leading him to dominate the first round of voting two weeks ago, 37 to 13. That left Bostic little time to turn things around, and Sanford secured the Republican nomination by a 57-43 margin.
(Kudos, by the way, to Public Policy Polling, the only firm willing to offer public numbers for a difficult-to-poll runoff. They put Sanford up 53-40, a 13-point margin; he won by 14. It's hard to do much better than that.)
Now Sanford will face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert. (She pronounces it "cole-bert," unlike her brother.) Despite this district's very red hue—Mitt Romney carried it 58-40 last November—Colbert Busch had a narrow 47-45 lead over Sanford in PPP's survey, and a similar 47-44 edge in an internal poll she released earlier this week. While Sanford retains a measure of popularity with some Republicans, overall, his reputation is poor, thanks in large part to his infamous hike on the Appalachian Trail as governor several years ago.
Colbert Busch's favorability ratings, on the other hand, have been strong, but that comes with a big caveat: She didn't face a competitive primary and hasn't been the subject of a single negative attack yet. That's about to change. Of course, Republicans shouldn't have to break a sweat holding a seat like this, so the fact that they're almost sure to go negative on Colbert Busch is a testament to Sanford's... special qualities, and perhaps the weakness of the GOP brand in general. I wouldn't rule out the chance of an upset, especially if Colbert Busch gets serious outside help and can make the race all about Sanford. (Indeed, her famous brother is going all-out and raising lots of money for her, and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is aiding her cause, too.)
Colbert Busch has her own vulnerabilities, though they are mostly ideological, simply because she's a Democrat running in such a red district. In one tweet, for instance, she declared she was "both pro-choice and in favor of marriage equality," stances that put her to the left of the median voter in SC-01—and tellingly, her campaign just wiped her entire Twitter account clean. But as one local Republican operative quoted by Politico notes, it may be tricky for Sanford himself to go on the offensive, seeing as he's still busy apologizing for his indiscretions and many women voters still have a serious problem with him. And the fact that his opponent is a woman doesn't make it any easier.
That likely means that outside groups—principally the NRCC—will have to do Sanford's proverbial "dirty work" for him. And if national Republicans wind up having to spend real money here, that alone is a victory for Democrats. But with the GOP saddled with a candidate as flawed as Sanford, an outright victory for Team Blue is not impossible. So, as always, keep an eye on fundraising, attack ads, outside spending, and, of course, polling, because we might just see a surprise here.
• GA-Sen: There's a new one-day robopoll out of a kitchen sink-style GOP primary, from the firm Landmark/Rosetta Stone, taken on behalf of a local TV news station. Rep. Phil Gingrey leads with 22 percent, while the only other declared candidate, fellow Rep. Paul Broun. is at 16. The "still considering" gang brings up the rear, with former SoS Karen Handel at 14, Rep. Jack Kingston at 8, and David Perdue at 1. If that last name seems vaguely familiar, that's because David Perdue is a first cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue. Jim Galloway reports that Perdue will soon quit the board of the Georgia Ports Authority in order to run for governor, though obviously he has some work to do on the name recognition front, despite his lineage.
• MI-Sen: Unless Zeppo Romney emerges from hiding, there won't be any members of the esteemed Romney clan running for Senate in Michigan this cycle. Ronna Romney McDaniel, a niece of Mitt who describes herself as a stay-at-home mom, says she will not seek the state's open Senate seat next year. Previously, her father, Scott Romney (Mitt's brother), declined himself but encouraged her to get into the race. However, Romney McDaniel's mother and grandmother both made losing bids for Senate of their own, and she said she did not want "to put my kids through" the agony of dealing with a parent on the campaign trail.
• AR-Gov: We have fundraising numbers for three gubernatorial candidates in today's Digest, starting with Arkansas Democrat Bill Halter. Halter, a former lieutenant governor and 2010 Senate candidate, says he's raised $360,000 and loaned his campaign another $640,000 on top of that, to take himself to $1 million in total receipts. I'm not sure when he began fundraising, but Halter only entered the race at the end of January, so these numbers may reflect only two months of activity. For now, Halter is the only Democratic candidate in the race, but ex-Rep. Mike Ross seems poised to enter the primary as well.
• FL-Gov: While limitlessly wealthy GOP Gov. Rick Scott raised "only" $6.5 million from outside sources in 2010 and spent $75 million of his own money, this time, he's relying much more heavily on donors. To date, he's taken in $9.8 million from outsider givers, including $4.6 million in the first quarter of the year. Scott's been able to do so by creating an "electioneering communications organization" that can accept unlimited donations, as long as it doesn't "expressly advocate" for Scott's re-election, though we all know how easy those rules are to get around.
And the payoff is enormous: Instead of the puny $500 contribution limit that gubernatorial candidates normally face, Scott's taking in six-figure checks, including $500,000 from "Pinellas County moneyman" Bill Edwards and $250,000 from Waste Management, Inc. founder Wayne Huizenga. The sky is truly the limit here.
• IL-Gov: Ultra-wealthy venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, just announced that he raised $1.3 million in his first month kinda-sorta on the campaign trail. That includes $249,000 of his own money, which the Chicago Tribune explains is "$1,000 shy of the amount that would free other GOP primary candidates from the campaign donation limits that were imposed as a result of impeached and imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption scandal." Rauner still has not formally declared his candidacy, though.
• ME-Gov: Pan Atlantic SMS, a local research firm that releases regular polls on the Maine electorate, has a new survey testing various possible gubernatorial permutations involving GOP Gov. Paul LePage, independent attorney Eliot Cutler, and ex-Gov. John Baldacci and Rep. Mike Michaud as Democratic options. Thanks to Cutler splitting the left-leaning vote, LePage prevails in both three-way matchups:
LePage (R): 37
Cutler (I): 27
Baldacci (D): 21
LePage (R): 34
Cutler (I): 26
Michaud (D): 23
And there's no better confirmation that Cutler is indeed set to play the spoiler role, given that in a direct head-to-head with LePage, he leads 42-35. This isn't news, though, as earlier polls—such as this more comprehensive survey from PPP back in January—showed a similar story, with LePage prevailing in every scenario.
However, PPP also had Michaud doing much better, knocking Cutler into third place and trailing LePage by only 4 points. That explains why the Maine Democratic Party is also now touting a March internal from Normington Petts showing LePage holding a narrow 36-33 edge over Michaud, with Cutler bringing up the rear at 20. The move is also probably an attempt to lure Michaud, who is only at the "considering stage," into formally entering the race.
Should he not run, though, and should Baldacci and Rep. Chellie Pingree also decline, Pan Atlantic also tested a kitchen sink Democratic primary minus these top three names. State Sen. Bill Diamond leads the way with 16 percent, with a whole host of other candidates. However, this scenario seems unlikely as Baldacci has said he'd probably run if neither Michaud nor Pingree get in. But no matter who the Democratic standard bearer is, Cutler still poses a serious problem and if he isn't pushed out of the race or demolished with negative ads, he'll once again serve as LePage's top enabler, just as he did in 2010.
• VA-Gov: Ah, perfect. Ken Cuccinelli has decided to forge ahead with his plans to remake himself as a moderate by—get this—asking a federal appellate court to reconsider its decision invalidating Virginia's law against sodomy. I'm sure just about every politically aware person is familiar with the Supreme Court's landmark decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which ruled such statutes unconstitutional a decade ago... well, everyone except Ken Cuccinelli, that is. Now, there is a narrow legal angle here, because the case in question "involved a man charged with soliciting oral sex from a 17-year-old woman," so Cuccinelli argued that the anti-sodomy law still applied to minors. (No sex actually took place.) But unconstitutional means unconstitutional, so this is a matter for the legislature to rectify, not the courts. But that obviously isn't stopping the Kooch.
• NM-02: Here's an off-the-radar race: Former state Rep. Joe Campos, who also served as Democrats' lieutenant governor nominee in 2010, says he's considering a run against GOP Rep. Steve Pearce. New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District is a difficult one for Democrats, though. It's the state's only Republican-leaning seat, having gone for Mitt Romney by a 52-45 margin last November. Democrat Harry Teague was able to capture it in the wave year of 2008, but Pearce ran for Senate that year, leaving the seat open.
But after failing in his attempt for a promotion, Pearce returned to his old turf and beat Teague by 10 points in the even bigger wave of 2010. Campos would need a lot of things to go right in order to pull off an upset, but aside from the governor's mansion, this is the only major office in New Mexico held by a Republican, so it's certainly worth a shot.
• Special Elections: Time to call out the chicken little brigades! Democrats lost a seat in a special election in Massachusetts! But Johnny Longtorso is here to dispense some political Prozac:
You'd think this were 1913, not 2013, for how hard it is to get news on election results out of Massachusetts....
Massachusetts HD-12th Essex: Split opposition resulted in a Republican pickup; Leah Cole's 35 percent of the vote was enough to defeat Democrat Beverley Griffin Dunne and Independent David Gravel, who got 34 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
Massachusetts HD-28th Middlesex: Democratic hold; Wayne Matewsky won this seat, also with 35 percent of the vote. Coming in second was a write-in candidate, former Everett mayor John Hanlon, with 33 percent. Independent Rosa DiFlorio was third with 20 percent, and independent Dennis Gianatassio was last with 11 percent.
Missouri HD-157: Republican hold; Mike Moon defeated Democrat Charles Dake 59-41.
• House: Whaddya know. Quinnipiac has Democrats up 8 points on their new generic House ballot, 43-35. That's by the far the biggest Dem edge they've found in quite some time; they've mostly seen 1- to 4-point leads for the boys in blue over the last year. Outlier, or the start of something new? Stay tuned.