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• FL-13: A new poll from Braun Research for a trio of local media organizations (including the Tampa Bay Times) finds Democrat Alex Sink leading Republican David Jolly 42-35 for next month's special election, with Libertarian Lucas Overby at 4. Though the proportion of undecided voters is somewhat high at 14 percent, Braun did in fact push leaners, but they didn't release any crosstabs.
There's also another new poll from St. Leo University that has Sink beating Jolly by an even wider 46-37 margin, while Overby takes an outsize 12 percent. St. Leo used a hybrid IVR-plus-online sample, and unlike Braun, they did publish crosstabs, so we know their sample had a 37 percent Republican, 32 percent Democrat, and 31 percent independent split.
For every firm that's tested these waters so far, we've examined their 2012 track records to see how they've measured up. It's how we know that the DCCC, which had Sink up 4, performed pretty well, and why we can say that St. Pete Poll and McLaughlin & Associates, both of whom had Jolly ahead 4 to 5 points, were so sketchy.
St. Leo, however, only recently launched its polling institute, so there's nothing for us to examine, and Braun, unfortunately, isn't particularly prolific. In fact, they don't appear to have released a single public poll in 2012. However, they did poll a number of Kentucky races in 2010 and 2011, and here's how those final surveys fared:
KY-Gov: Braun: Beshear (D) 54-26; actual: Beshear (D) 56-35; error: +7 D
KY-AG: Braun: Conway (D) 56-27; actual: Conway (D) 55-45; error: +19 D
KY-Auditor: Braun: Edelen (D) 39-29; actual: Edelen (D) 56-44; error: +2 R
KY-SoS: Braun: Grimes (D) 41-30; actual: Grimes (D) 61-39; error: +11 R
KY-Treas: Braun: Hollenbach (D) 47-22; actual: Hollenbach (D) 49-47; error: +23 D
KY-Ag. Comm'r: Braun: Farmer (D) 45-29; actual: Comer (R) 64-36; error: +44 D
KY-Sen: Braun: Paul (R) 47-39; actual: Paul (R) 56-44; error: +4 D
KY-03: Braun: Yarmuth (D) 58-31; actual: Yarmuth (D) 55-44; error: +16 D
KY-06: Braun: Chandler (D) 47-42; actual: Chandler (D) 50.1-49.8; error: +4.7 D
Now, polling downballot races where candidates often have limited name recognition isn't easy (most people have no idea who their state's treasurer is), but oof did Braun blow it in 2011. In fact, that agriculture commissioner poll is one of the worst misses we've ever seen. James Comer, the eventual winner of that race, zinged the poll's sponsor pretty damn good:
"cn|2 is known for two things: good reporting and terrible polling," he said in a statement. "They've never been able to hit the broad side of a barn in any race. When I win this election, I do hope cn|2 will look into hiring a new pollster."
These awful polls may be why we didn't hear a peep from Braun last cycle, and they're also a good reason to be skeptical of their latest numbers in Florida.
• KY-Sen: A new survey from right-wing pollster Wenzel Strategies has GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell edging Democrat Alison Grimes 43-42, compared to a 48-40 McConnell lead all the way back in July. Grimes also beats Republican businessman Matt Bevin 39-36; last time, he was ahead 35-30. The GOP primary is essentially unchanged, though: McConnell is on top 59-17, versus 59-20 in July.
• LA-Sen: Americans for Prosperity is spending another $750,000 to run a new ad targeting Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, bringing their total outlay against her to $2.6 million, according to the group. The latest spot features a variety of different reg'lar folks opening up their mailboxes to receive notices informing them that their insurance plans have been cancelled or their premiums have gone up, all "due to the Affordable Care Act." None of these people are actual Louisianans sharing actual stories, though—they're all paid actors.
• MT-Sen: Democrat John Walsh has been a senator for scarcely three days and already he's been on the receiving end of an attack ad from American Crossroads, so it's not too surprising that he's now firing back with a spot of his own. Speaking directly to the camera, Walsh, a retired general, plays up his military credentials, saying: "I led Montana's finest men and women into combat in Iraq, and I carry with me the names of four soldiers I had the honor to serve with who didn't make it home." He also briefly nods toward the Crossroads ad, saying it'll "take a lot more than smear ads" to stop him.
• NC-Sen: Unsurprisingly, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan's numbers have ticked downward yet again in PPP's latest North Carolina poll, and she's now tasting the high 30s in some matchups. Here's how she stands versus the GOP field (with January's trendlines in parentheses):
• 38-45 vs. Ted Alexander
• 40-43 vs. Greg Brannon (41-43)
• 39-41 vs. Heather Grant (41-42)
• 40-42 vs. Thom Tillis (42-43)
• 40-42 vs. Mark Harris (41-43)
• 40-40 vs. Edward Kryn
Hagan's poor numbers in the head-to-head matchups are undoubtedly due to the ceaseless air assault she's received from Americans for Prosperity, which just yesterday we noted had reached $8.2 million
. Hagan's job score hasn't really budged, though, with 41 percent approving of her work and 50 percent disapproving. That's similar to last month's 39-49 spread, so perhaps the Koch brothers have hit the point of diminishing returns? Maybe that's wishful thinking, but Hagan has to hope that's the case.
Meanwhile, the GOP primary, as ever, remains quite shapeless. Tillis, the nominal frontrunner, takes just 20 percent. Brannon and Grant tie with 13, newcomer Alexander starts off with 10, Harris is at 8, and Kryn, another new candidate, brings up the rear with 2. If I were a deep-pocketed Democratic super PAC, I'd seriously be thinking about spending some cash to help a tea partier like Brannon or a social conservative like Harris make the runoff. I certainly wouldn't assume that Tillis is going to be the nominee.
• TN-Sen: A poll from Middle Tennessee State University finds GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander holding off his primary challenge, state Rep. Joe Carr, 47-7. That's a pretty similar spread to what Alexander's seen in his own internal polling.
• IL-Gov: A new labor-backed PAC called Illinois Freedom is running a new ad attacking wealthy venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, in what's either an attempt to derail him in next month's GOP primary or an admission that they'd better start beating him up for November since he's likely to be the Republican nominee. The spot attempts to tie Rauner to an imprisoned "Blagojevich crony" who testified that "a company financed by Rauner's firm" paid him a million bucks to help direct state contracts their way. There's no word on the exact size of the buy, but Illinois Freedom apparently plans to spend at least $2 million on the race.
Rauner's already responded with a cheaply produced ad of his own, claiming that the Chicago Tribune "looked at these phony charges and dismissed them." Rauner definitely hasn't mastered the trick of not sounding insincere himself when talking to the camera, though, so his consultants would be wise to keep him out of future ads.
• NH-Gov: New Hampshire Republicans, stuck with only former Newt Gingrich state director Andrew Hemingway in the race for governor, are now turning to freshman state Sen. John Reagan as an alternative. Reagan says he's considering the race but didn't offer any timetable for making a decision. If he does decide to run against Gov. Maggie Hassan, Democrats might have a shot at picking up Reagan's Senate seat, which went for Mitt Romney by a very narrow 50-49 margin. (Republicans have only a one-seat edge in the chamber.)
• CA-31: Unsurprisingly, Republicans aren't showing much interest in stepping in taking retiring Rep. Gary Miller's place in California's blue-tilting 31st District. State Assemblymen Curt Hagman and Mike Morrell received immediate Great Mentioner treatment, but Hagman has already said no. Morrell, meanwhile, is a near-lock to win a special election for state Senate, so it's doubtful he'd change gears.
Also bowing out is former state Sen. Bob Dutton, the guy who squeaked through the top-two primary in 2012, allowing Miller to win that infamous R-on-R general election. It looks like the GOP might wind up with former George W. Bush staffer and Iraq vet Paul Chabot, who is currently seeking Morrell's Assembly seat but had previously said he might run for Congress if Dutton did not.
• MI-14: EMILY's List has endorsed candidates in three House races (NJ-03, NY-04, and MI-14), but only the latter features a competitive Democratic primary. There they've tapped Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, who last month leaked an internal pollshowing her with a wide early lead for the Democratic nomination.
• NE-02: With just a few days to go before the filing deadline, Democrats have managed to snag a credible candidate to challenge GOP Rep. Lee Terry—and once again, it's someone who originally said "no" to a bid. State Sen. Brad Ashford, a former Republican who became a Democrat last year, has decided to run against Terry even though he initially declined in October. If this story sounds familiar, that's because the Democrats' first pick, Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen, also said he wouldn't run, then said he would... and then finally dropped out for reals in December, giving the term-limited Ashford an opening.
Ashford's getting a late start, though, and while Nebraska's 2nd is a swingy seat and Terry made a memorable gaffe last year that went national during the government shutdown, it won't be easy to unseat the incumbent. But this is certainly a seat that Democrats need to play in, so it's good to see them come through on the recruiting front, even at the last minute.
• NY-21: The 12 Democratic county chairs in New York's open 21st District have decided to give their seal of approval to documentary filmmaker Aaron Woolf, who is described in a local press account as "unknown to the district" and owns a grocery store "that specializes in locally sourced and organic foods"... in Brooklyn. Woolf's only connection to the district is a house he owns in Elizabethtown, about a 4-and-a-half hour drive from his bodega.
It seems that local Democrats turned to Woolf at least in part because former Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava pulled her name from consideration at the last moment and says that she won't run, preferring to stay in her job in the Cuomo administration. Note, though, that this endorsement process is wholly unnecessary, seeing as there's a primary coming up in June—and Woolf may not have the field to himself. Following Woolf's selection, former state Sen. Darrel Aubertine confirmed that he's still considering a bid, and Assemblywoman Addie Russell hasn't formally ruled out the race either. Unlike Woolf, both of them have prior elective experience, and much firmer ties to the North Country.
• WA-04: Republican Rep. Doc Hastings has announced he'll retire at the end of this term. Hastings, a pretty anonymous member despite holding a committee chairmanship, originally rode the Gingrich revolution to Congress in 1994, defeating now-Gov. Jay Inslee. Even then, Washington's 4th was a very conservative district, and it remains so today, seeing as it went for Mitt Romney 60-38. Therefore, all the action to replace Hastings will happen on the GOP side.
Roll Call is out with the inevitable Great Mentioning of possible Republican replacements. Clint Didier, the tea-flavored former NFL player who lost the 2010 Senate primary and then the 2012 Public Lands Commissioner race, leads off the list. State Sens. Sharon Brown, Janea Holmquist Newbry, and Curtis King, and state Reps. Brad Klippert, Matt Manweller, and David Taylor also appear. To our eye, Holmquist Newbry, who'd be in the Farm Bureau/Chamber of Commerce corner, and Klippert, who'd be in the social conservative corner, seem the likeliest.
As for Democrats, this isn't one of those districts that's Dem-friendly locally even as it's red at the federal level. In fact, there's not a single Democratic state legislator in this district, and probably not even any county commissioners. Stephen Wolf points out that the last time any statewide Democrat whatsoever carried this district was back in 2004 (Auditor Brian Sonntag, as he was winning with 64 percent statewide). (David Nir & David Jarman)
• TX-04: Former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe, who loaned his campaign $400,000 last quarter, is out with an ad in support of his primary challenge to GOP Rep. Ralph Hall. It's a hokey spot featuring a forced conversation between several people at a diner who all talk about Ratcliffe's wonderful qualities ("He's fighting to repeal Obamacare" and "kept us safe from terrorist threats"), with the punch line that Ratcliffe is actually seated just next to them and turns around to introduce himself. There's no word on the size of the buy, but obviously Ratcliffe has money to burn.
• AR-LG: What a snake. Despite saying barely two weeks ago that he was putting his political career on "operational pause" following his unexpected retirement after just two terms in Congress, GOP Rep. Tim Griffin has decided to run for lieutenant governor this fall. It's a purely opportunistic move for Griffin, who has an unexpected opening thanks to former Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's resignation this month due to ethical abuses, but it makes perfect sense coming from the ultimate Karl Rove acolyte.
Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Debra Hobbs, who had so far registered an absolute zero, says she's dropping down from the governor's race to run for lieutenant governor instead. The GOP establishment had long since rallied around ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson, and the fact that Hobbs had raised all of $840 (no zeroes missing) in the fourth quarter last year is testament to how hopeless her bid was. But in the suddenly crowded lite guv field, she may not fare much better.
• IN Ballot: In a huge victory for supporters of marriage equality, a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage will not appear on the ballot in Indiana this fall. GOP lawmakers in the House stripped out an exceedingly unpopular provision that would have also prohibited civil unions, and the Senate declined to re-insert it, meaning the legislature now cannot pass the same amendment that cleared the body in 2012. Indiana law requires that proposed amendments pass two consecutive legislatures without any alterations, so since the wording has changed, Republicans are back to square one.
That means they'll have to try passing the marriage-only ban again in 2016 to put it on the ballot that year. Who knows if the legislature will even be able to muster enough support for such an amendment by then? And since Indiana voters will continue to favor marriage equality in increasing numbers, such a ban will be even less likely to pass almost three years hence. Indeed, polling already showed the measure in very dicey shape this year, and that was before opponents made any concerted effort to educate the public about the anti-civil unions component.
Sadly, Indiana law still prohibits same-sex marriage, but that's going to change some day, too. The bottom line is that the arc of the moral universe is bending toward equality faster than conservatives can hope to keep up with. They've lost this year, and it's only going to get worse for them in the future. And that's great news for equal protection under the law for all.