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• PA-Sen: Here's more empirical evidence that the conventional wisdom about who cares more about gun safety regulations is wrong, via Quinnipiac's new Pennsylvania poll. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, one of the architects of the Manchin-Toomey amendment that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers, just recorded his all-time highest job approval rating, at 48-30, up from 43-32 a month ago.
While his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Joe Manchin, has received more media attention, Toomey has earned plenty of notice for his role as a Republican willing to take on the NRA, and it's redounded to his benefit. By a 54-12 margin, respondents say they're inclined to view Toomey more favorably thanks to the legislation that bears his name, and overall they give him a positive 34-29 rating on how he's "handling gun control."
And as with every other poll (pace Heidi Heitkamp), Quinnipiac finds almost universal support for increased background checks, with 85 percent in favor and just 12 percent opposed. What's more, voters are pissed about the Senate's failure to pass Manchin-Toomey. Thirty-four percent describe themselves as "angry" about the result and 36 percent say they are "dissatisfied." Only 22 percent say they're "satisfied" and just 5 percent "enthusiastic."
Combined with New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte's drop in her job approval score following her vote against Manchin-Toomey, I'm only further convinced that a price is going to be paid over expanded background checks, but not by supporters.
• MI-Sen: University of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon is playing it awfully cute. Last week, unnamed sources for a local Detroit TV station had recently said Brandon was considering a bid for Michigan's open Senate seat as a Republican. On Thursday, in response to one reporter's question on the topic, Brandon said only "That's silly."
On Friday, though, Brandon got squirrely at a local chamber of commerce event with rival athletic director Mark Hollis of Michigan State University. Asked if he was thinking about running, Brandon retorted:
"No," he said. "I'm thinking about beating Michigan State." [...]
"That wasn't the purpose of the day," Brandon said later, after the formal program. "The reality is, I don't know where that stuff comes from. That wasn't the purpose of the day. I thought it was kind of an inappropriate question, I don't know where that stuff comes from. So it gets reported, then it gets re-reported."
So Brandon seemingly objected to the venue in which the question was asked, not the question itself. It almost sounds like he was pedantically insisting, "I'm not thinking about the Senate right at this exact moment
," so who knows what's really on his mind. At least Hollis got in a good jab, saying Brandon has a better chance at the Senate than he does beating MSU.
• MT-Sen: Denny Rehberg in January:
Rehberg, who's been a six-term congressman for Montana, lieutenant governor and state representative in his 30-plus years in Montana politics, said he decided before getting into the race against Tester in 2011 that he would either retire from Congress in 2012 or run for the U.S. Senate.
"I made the determination before that it would be up or out," he said in an interview with the Gazette State Bureau. "As it turned out, it was out." [...]
"I've enjoyed my 12 years in Congress, but there will be a new chapter for Jan and I," he said. "Who knows where that path will lead, but it will be exciting. It's always a change."
Denny Rehberg now
"As to what the future holds, ever since Max announced his retirement two days ago my phone has been ringing off the hook. The encouragement I've been getting from Montanans to take a serious look at this race has been overwhelming," Rehberg said. "I owe it to them, and to all the folks who I've served over the years, to keep listening and see how things develop. I'm not ruling anything out at this point."
I guess the prospect of an open Senate seat in Montana is too much for any prominent Republican to ignore, but Rehberg did just take a cushy lobbying job
with a DC firm last month, so he'd have to give that up in order to run. For a guy who once said
"I think lobbying is an honorable profession," that might be too much to ask.
• AZ-Gov: Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is going to try for an extremely unlikely comeback. Despite getting disbarred last year for abuse of his prosecutorial powers, Thomas has decided to run for governor in 2014. Thomas very nearly won the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2010, losing by less than two-tenths of a percent to eventual victor Tom Horne. But, explains the Arizona Republic, Thomas badly marred his reputation as a conservative rising star:
A disciplinary panel convened by the Arizona Supreme Court found clear and convincing evidence of ethical misconduct that merited disbarment from legal practice.
Among the most serious findings were that he and his former prosecutors pressed unwarranted criminal charges, obtained indictments, filed a federal racketeering lawsuit and initiated investigations against his political enemies and those of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio from 2006 to 2010.
Targets included judges, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and other county officials.
Don't worry, though: Thomas is convinced it's all a conspiracy, which may very well help him in a GOP primary. And you sort of have to hope someone like that can actually secure his party's nod, since he's just an opposition researcher's dream.
• FL-Gov: Just a day after his spokesman said he was considering a gubernatorial bid, Dem Sen. Bill Nelson struck a somewhat different tune:
"Look, I have no plans to run for governor. I have no intention of running for governor," said Nelson, who won re-election last November. "I love this job as senator, except that I am very, very frustrated as we have discussed this morning—that we can't get anything done because you can't get people together to build consensus."
That's far from Shermanesque, though. "No plans" and "no intention" are deliberately different from "I am not." For some reason, though, a lot of reporters and analysts tend to confuse the two types of statements. Sure, Nelson's making it sound rather unlikely that he'd run for governor, and I still suspect in the end that he won't. But he is emphatically not shutting the door. It's really not that hard—just look at the very words he uses. Politicians do this kind of thing all the time, and parsing what they say is important, because plans can change
• IL-Gov: It was always a low percentage play, so I'm not surprised to see that GOP Rep. Aaron Schock has decided against a bid for governor. Not only would the conservative Schock have faced daunting odds getting elected statewide in Illinois, but he'd likely have faced a seriously bruising primary against gazillionaire Bruce Rauner first. I'm a little sad that we won't see a Rauner-Schock smackdown now, since the two had already drawn knives for one another, but presumably Rauner won't hesitate to spend his fortune nuking anyone else who might seek the Republican nomination, so we may yet have a little fun.
• ME-Gov: Rep. Chellie Pingree, one of two top potential Democratic recruits, has announced that she will not run for governor next year. I can't say I'm particularly surprised, though. For one thing, Pingree's been moving up the ladder in the House; for another, attorney Eliot Cutler's third-party bid makes this race maddeningly difficult for any Democrat, since he draws votes almost exclusively from the left. Still, Maine's other representative, Mike Michaud, hasn't made up his mind yet, and he'd be an even more imposing candidate than Pingree—perhaps strong enough, even, to fight off both Cutler and GOP Gov. Paul LePage at the same time.
• NY-Gov: New York GOP chair Ed Cox is 0 for 2: Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards has announced that not only will he not run for governor, he isn't even seeking re-election for a third term at his current post. Edwards was one of five Republicans Cox recently talked up as potential gubernatorial material, but now both Edwards and Rep. Chris Gibson have told him no dice. (As for Edwards' county executive seat, Mitt Romney won Chautauqua 53-45, so it's probably not a pickup opportunity.)
• VA-Gov: Republican AG Ken Cuccinelli is out with his first TV ad of the gubernatorial election that looks like it's mostly designed to remind people he has a wife. Tellingly, Cuccinelli's campaign is refusing to provide any details on the size of the buy, where it will run, how long it'll air for, whether it's appearing on cable or broadcast, or really anything at all. So I'm guessing it may well be what Nathan Gonzales would call a "video press release"—a television spot backed by very little money that is mostly designed to garner attention from the media and not actually influence voters.
Or maybe this is why Cuccinelli decided to release his new ad on Friday. The Kooch, you see, has come under a lot of fire lately for accepting all manner of expensive gifts from Jonnie Williams, the CEO of Star Scientific, a tobacco company turned nutritional supplements vendor that's tried to ingratiate itself with a host of top Virginia elected officials. Gov. Bob McDonnell's received the greatest scrutiny, but Cuccinelli has earned a lot of negative attention, too.
So in a recent attempt to get out from under this mess of his own creation, Cuccinelli belatedly tried to make the more-beleaguered McDonnell the fall guy by calling for reforms to Virginia's gift reporting requirements. (The real scandal is that public officials can take whatever
bribes gifts they're offered; they merely have to make sure to report them publicly.) At the time, though, I asked if he was "absolutely sure there are no other shoes to drop"—after all, it's hard to look like a reformer when you're still mired in the muck.
And indeed, there are. In a classic late Friday news dump, Cuccinelli revised his disclosure statements yet again, with three new gifts from Williams totaling over $5,000, and, for good measure, two gifts from other sources, including a $7,500 charter flight from a mining company. That's all on top of the $13,000 worth of gifts Cuccinelli had previously received from Williams. Quite sneakily, as of Friday afternoon, if you were to type in just "Ken Cuccinelli" into Google News, you wouldn't find any hits on this story—just the lame TV ad release—so he did a decent job masking it. (Even now it barely registers on Google News.) But politics doesn't really work that way, and no matter how he tries to hide, Cuccinelli's just given this story some more legs.
• HI-01: Democrat Esther Kiaaina, who came in a very distant third in last year's primary in HI-02, says she won't run in the HI-01 primary next year. Somewhat surprisingly for a Hawaii politician, Kiaaina said: "As a matter of principle, I believe that individuals who run for Congressional seats should reside in the district they seek to represent." Several local office-seekers have run for both of the state's congressional seats, regardless of residency, and carpetbagging charges don't seem to be a feature of Hawaii politics. Kiaaina may nevertheless feel this way, but her poor showing and weak fundraising in 2012, despite being the only obvious progressive choice in the race, may also be a factor.
• SC-01: I suspected that Mark Sanford's fundraising had dried up—I mean, come on, it wasn't exactly a difficult call to make—but even I didn't imagine things would be this bad. In his pre-special election fundraising report (covering the period of Feb. 28 to April 17), Sanford took in just $375,000. Ordinarily, that might seem pretty good, but as we mentioned in the previous Digest, Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch raised $871,000—more than twice as much. Sanford spent remarkably little (only $23,000), momentarily leaving him with more cash on hand ($284,000 vs. $254,000), but Colbert Busch's subsequent fundraising has been far stronger, so she's certainly made up the gap.
But also, there's a reason why people spend money on political campaigns! Colbert Busch spent over 35 times as much as Sanford during the last month-and-a-half. Sanford may have managed to husband his meager resources, but the fact that a former Republican governor running in a deep red district has been reduced to shoestring levels is really remarkable. Certainly it explains Cardboard Pelosi. It also makes this photo of Sanford holding fistfuls of cash in his best Walter White impersonation even more amusing.
To top it all off, of course, Sanford's getting bupkes in outside help while the House Majority PAC and the DCCC have both dropped six figures on his head in TV advertising. (Speaking of which, HMP has started airing that VoteVets ad from last Monday as part of their "previously announced six-figure buy.") Maybe instead of campaigning, he'd like to go back on that apology tour. Or a trail hike.
• Missouri: Would we ever get this lucky?
We asked, "Would you ever consider putting your hat back in the political ring again?"
"It's one of those things that depends on the circumstances really. I don't rule anything out," he said. "I consider it a bright new future and I'm interested to see what the possibilities are."
That, my friends, is none other than Todd Akin speaking—for the first time since his epic, humiliating loss in last year's Senate race. The dude's 65, though, and obviously has earned himself quite a few enemies, so I'm not going to hold my breath waiting. I will, however, light a candle and say a little benediction, because what the world needs so badly is a Todd Akin comeback.
• WATN?: After multiple protracted court battles over his residency status in 2011 that ultimately rendered him ineligible to run for state Senate in New Jersey, Olympic legend Carl Lewis is leaving the Garden State for Houston, Texas. Lewis, a Democrat, might have made an interesting opponent for GOP Rep. Jon Runyan in NJ-03 (gold-medal sprinter and long jumper versus NFL offensive tackle), but alas, it looks like it's not to be.