Want the scoop on hot races around the country? Get the digest emailed to you each weekday morning. Sign up here
• OH-Gov: I keep having a hard time buying Quinnipiac's Ohio polling, for the same reason I've struggled with their Colorado numbers. John Kasich, the Buckeye State's Republican governor, sports a solid 51-36 job approval rating in Quinnipiac's newest survey, pretty much the same as it's been for a solid year now. But in a head-to-head matchup with his little-known Democratic challenger, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, Kasich holds a small 43-38 lead, a couple of points tighter than his 44-37 edge in November.
So what gives? Why would 8 percent of the electorate say they like the job Kasich is doing but refuse to say they'll vote for him? Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has also seen a similar phenomenon in Quinnipiac's data, but Kasich's spread is even more extreme. Now, the opposite situation would certainly make sense: An incumbent might earn a better horserace share than his job approval score, particularly if his opponent is widely disliked. (Call it the lesser of two evils—someone has to win.)
The only other firm that's publicly polled this race is PPP, and they have shown Kasich with similarly soft head-to-heads. However, PPP has also shown Kasich with mediocre-to-lousy approvals, so that at least is internally consistent. But what we have with Quinnipiac doesn't really add up, and I'm baffled as to why.
• AK-Sen: Interesting. We all know that Americans for Prosperity gets its money straight from the Koch brothers, but if you're not familiar with where the Kochs get their money from, a key part of it comes from operating—what else?—oil refineries. So when AFP abruptly cancelled $100,000 worth of attack ads aimed at Sen. Mark Begich, Democrats immediately speculated that the group was trying to avoid negative publicity because Koch Industries had just announced the closure of a major refinery in Fairbanks. AFP, of course, is refusing to explain itself, so there's no way to know for sure why they did what they did, but live by the billionaire oligarch, die by the billionaire oligarch.
• AR-Sen, -Gov: Republican pollster Impact Management Group has new numbers on both Arkansas' Senate and governor's races, though it's not clear on whose behalf they polled (if anyone's). IMG finds GOP Rep. Tom Cotton leading Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor 46-42, while the fight for the open gubernatorial contest is tied at 42 apiece between Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson, both former congressmen.
• KY-Sen: There's a new round of ads in the Republican primary in the Kentucky Senate race, though all pretty boilerplate-ish and not likely to break through the clutter (Matt Bevin needs more talking dogs). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is out with a 30-second spot backing their turtle in the race, talking about how Mitch McConnell is fighting Obamacare. Meanwhile, the Bevin campaign is out with two 15-second spots comparing-and-contrasting with McConnell, one on guns and one on earmarks. The CoC only says its buy is "significant," while the Bevin buy is a smallish $30,000. (David Jarman)
• MI-Sen: Well, Americans for Prosperity has definitely ratcheted things up in their nationwide anti-Obamacare crusade. In a new spot aimed at Democratic Rep. Gary Peters, a Michigan resident named Julie Boonstra says she was diagnosed with leukemia five years ago but then received a letter telling her that her "insurance was canceled because of Obamacare." Now, says Boonstra, "The out-of-pocket costs are so high it's unaffordable. If I do not receive my medication, I will die."
Boonstra was able to get alternative health coverage, according to press reports, but if her previous insurance was as generous as she makes it sound, then it seems unlikely that her policy was cancelled due to the Affordable Care Act. (The ACA only bans plans that fall below standards of minimum coverage.) Of course, insurers have always (and still can) cancel plans as they see fit, for reasons having nothing to do with Obamacare. The difference now, though, is that they're forbidden from denying new coverage to Americans on account of any pre-existing conditions.
Of course, whether Peters can respond effectively is a different question, especially since Boonstra did face a potential gap in coverage thanks to the ACA's botched rollout. Whether it's accurate or not, this is not an easy ad to answer.
• NH-Sen: Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown remains mysterious as ever about whether or not he will seek the Republican nomination to take on Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in his new home state. Brown just renewed his contract with Fox News, which seems to point against a run. However, Brown remains unpredictable enough that anything can happen. (Jeff Singer)
• MS-Sen: Buried in this Politico article about Sen. Thad Cochran's GOP primary fight against Tea Party insurgent state Sen. Chris McDaniel is the news that national Democrats are still trying to recruit former Rep. Travis Childers. Childers expressed some interest in running back in November but has been very quiet since then. Any Democrat faces long odds here, but a McDaniel primary victory has the potential to make things much more interesting. Childers will need to make up his mind soon: The filing deadline is March 1. (Jeff Singer)
• OK-Sen-B: Republican T.W. Shannon, who recently stepped down as state House speaker in order to run for Senate, has released the first ad of the race. It's a minute-long introductory spot, backed by what the campaign says is a $150,000 buy. A narrator touts Shannon as a "sixth-generation Oklahoman" and repeatedly mentions his faith (the ad was filmed in a church). The rest of the commercial features Shannon talking to the camera about his conservative values—nothing especially memorable, but pretty standard fare for a first ad.
• NV-Gov: Pretty much the only Democrat who might have made Nevada's gubernatorial race interesting, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, is saying no to a bid. Even though Democrats have a decent bench in Nevada—and a growing edge electorally—no one's shown any interest in stepping up to take on popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. With less than a month to go until the state's filing deadline, Sandoval might wind up facing a true Some Dude, a rather remarkable turn of events in a state that's gone blue in the last two presidential elections.
• PA-Gov: Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is out with his first ad for his re-election campaign, and it's pretty painful. (It's also backed by a reported $109,000 cable-only buy, which is not a whole lot for a big state like Pennsylvania.) The 60-second spot features Corbett talking to fake audiences about his way of doing things, starting off with him saying, "I decided I was gonna run state government just as you would wanna run state government." That's a pretty presumptuous "you" in that sentence, and that kind of framing certainly didn't work for Christine O'Donnell.
For the entire rest of the (long, long) ad, Corbett talks only about how he's cut spending, and while ordinarily that might be a winning message, Corbett's biggest weakness is the cuts he made to education funding. (The ad is, however, mostly airing on Fox News.) Also, does anything really think it would be pleasant to have Corbett talk your ear off about how he reduced the size of the state's vehicle fleet, as he does to some poor guy in a hardware store? At the end of the ad, Corbett says that Pennsylvanians "sent him to Harrisburg not to make friends, but to make a difference." He's probably not going to make too many friends with this ad, either.
• CA-15: A day of awkwardness ended up with a grown-up version of Everybody-Gets-a-Trophy Day. After state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (who has an almost-unimpeded path to succeed George Miller in CA-11) spent Tuesday saying he didn't recall endorsing fellow state Sen. Ellen Corbett in her below-the-radar primary against freshman Rep. Eric Swalwell, it turned out that, in fact, he had. Corbett's campaign produced a copy of DeSaulnier's endorsement card, and in the face of that evidence, DeSaulnier offered a dual endorsement to both candidates. (David Jarman)
• LA-06: After teasing the public for months in what looked more like a bid for attention than one for office, 86-year-old ex-Gov. Edwin Edwards now claims he's actually going to run for Congress. It's not quite clear that Edwards understands modern campaign finance law, though, since he claimed, "I'm just figuring out all the legalities and how to set up a super PAC, and then I'm going." Candidates, of course, cannot "set up" their own super PACs, since by law, super PACs aren't permitted to coordinate with campaigns. (It's the tiny, un-policeable fig leaf of propriety that the Supreme Court dressed up its Citizens United decision in.) Then again, familiarity with the law was never Edwards' strong suit to begin with.
As for actually winning, well... sure, Edwards always had a reputation has a popular scoundrel. But he hasn't served in office since 1996, after which he served an eight-year prison sentence for corruption. Louisiana's 6th District is open, but it's also extremely conservative (Mitt Romney carried it 66-32). And yeah, Edwards is old, even by congressional standards. If by some chance he were successful, though, Edwards might set a record for the longest absence before returning to the House: He stepped down after seven years of service during his first gubernatorial bid, back in 1972. If anyone could do it, though, it'd be ol' Edwin.
P.S. Edwards' wife is denying that her husband said he's going to run, so who knows.
• MI-11: Accidental GOP Rep. Kerry Bentivolio faces a very tough primary fight against foreclosure kingpin David Trott, but he just got a potentially useful endorsement from the Tea Party Express. Bentivolio's going to need all the help he can get: As of the end of 2013, Trott holds a massive $711,000 to $129,000 cash-on-hand edge. (Jeff Singer)
• MN-07: Republican pollster Tarrance Group, on behalf of the NRCC, is out with a poll of the race in the 7th, and, as you'd expect, the memo might as well just say "RETIRE NOW COLLIN PETERSON" in 72-point type. With the UT-04 and NC-07 retirements, Peterson is in the third-reddest district left with an incumbent Dem, and while he's survived previous GOP waves with little damage, the GOP has found a better-than-usual contender here this year, state Sen. Torrey Westrom.
While the poll doesn't find Peterson in immediate peril—he leads the initial ballot 46-39 and has 58/23 approvals—it does show he'll need to work harder than usual, and the NRCC is naturally hoping that'll weigh on him as he decides whether to run again (though Peterson has a long-established practice of acting publicly reluctant up until the moment he files for re-election—which, of course, is a pattern up only until that year when it no longer happens). To that end, they point out that the GOP leads the generic ballot in the district 47-36 and that Westrom leads after the heroic-sounding informed ballot passage is read. (David Jarman)
• NJ-12: Rush Holt's retirement opens up a rare commodity, a safe Democratic seat with a genuinely open Democratic primary in New Jersey. While state Sen. Linda Greenstein jumped in almost immediately, lots of other Dems are sizing up the race. One whom we mentioned Tuesday confirmed her interest on Wednesday: state Sen. Shirley Turner. Turner, an African-American who has represented the Trenton portion of the 12th since 1998, was one of only six Senate Dems to vote against same-sex marriage.
Paula Covello, the Mercer County clerk, is one more name to add to the "confirmed to be mulling the race" pile, along with Mercer Co. Executive Brian Hughes and state Assemblymen Upendra Chivukula and Reed Gusciora (all of whom we mentioned on Tuesday). PolitickerNJ also has a few more names for the lesser Great Mentioner heap: Assemblyman Jerry Green and Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr.
But here's a clue that Greenstein may have the inside track here. Two of the other names that everybody mentioned on Tuesday, Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Dan Benson, are saying they're more interested in moving up to succeed Greenstein in the Senate. (David Jarman)
• NV-04: Cresent Hardy, a Republican assemblyman running against freshman Rep. Steven Horsford, declared in a new interview that he considers the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would outlaw discrimination in hiring based on sexual orientation, a "segregation law" because "it puts one class of a person over another." That should go over very well in this majority-minority district. You might wonder if Hardy is being pulled to the right by his primary opponent, conservative activist Niger Innis, but if you read what he says, there's every reason to think Hardy actually believes this crap.
• NY-21: New York Republicans have gotten exactly what they didn't want: a third attempt at a congressional bid from businessman Matt Doheny. Doheny twice lost to retiring Rep. Bill Owens, who successfully painted him as a job-destroying vulture capitalist. And last cycle, Doheny also had to deal with photos showing him making out with a woman who wasn't his wife. In addition, Doheny admitted in his latest campaign announcement that he "had to leave the North Country for a time to continue my career"—which probably means he was back on Wall Street.
The problem for upstate GOPers is that they've all rallied around former George W. Bush White House aide Elise Stefanik, whom they believe lacks Doheny's baggage. But an uncontradicted Doheny internal showed him crushing Stefanik 49-13, undoubtedly thanks to residual name recognition. The NRCC and the rest of the establishment may go all-out to stop Doheny from winning the Republican nomination again, but if they do, that's a lot of effort directed toward an internal fight, rather than against Democrats—and that's seldom what you want to find yourself doing.
• WA-04: A fourth credible Republican has gotten in the quickly-developing field to replace Doc Hastings in this dark-red district after his retirement last week: Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck. And here's some tidying-up on the Great Mentioner front: State Rep. Charles Ross is one more potentially interested name, while state Reps. Matt Manweller and David Taylor are out of contention. So too is Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley, who's backing state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry. (David Jarman)
• DSCC/NRSC: Once again, the DSCC has outraised the NRSC, pulling in $6.4 million in January versus $4.6 million for their Republican counterparts. Democrats also have $15 million on hand, compared to $10 million for the GOP.
• Nebraska: On Tuesday, the first of Nebraska's two filing deadlines passed. The state requires all current office holders running in the May 13 primary (either for reelection or for another office) to file on Feb 18, while the deadline for everyone else is March 3. The state has a list of who has filed here.
The state will host two crowded Republican primaries for governor and senate. In the gubernatorial race, the candidates are Attorney General Jon Bruning, state Sen. Tom Carlson, state Auditor Mike Foley, and state Sen. Beau McCoy. Two other Republicans, former Congressional aide Bryan Slone and former Ameritrade COO and 2006 Senate nominee Pete Ricketts, have also said they are running. The only Democrat to file or declare his intentions is former University of Nebraska Board of Regents chair Chuck Hassebrook. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as Likely Republican.
In the senate contest, the three candidates who have filed are businessman Clifton Johnson, former Treasurer Shane Osborn, and bank president Sid Dinsdale. Attorney Bart McLeay and Midland University President Ben Sasse are also running, but have not yet filed. The only Democrat to file so far is Some Dude Larry Marvin, though lawyer Dave Domina has declared his candidacy. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Safe Republican.
Two other statewide posts are also open. In the race for Attorney General two Republicans, attorney Doug Peterson and state Sen. Pete Pirsch, are running. In the Auditor's contest, Republican state Sen. Charlie Janssen and Democratic state Sen. Amanda McGill are in. The Republican incumbents for Secretary of State and Treasurer are so far unopposed.
All three of Nebraska's House members are running for reelection. Republican Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith look like they'll win renomination without much trouble, and are safe in the general election. In NE-03 Smith's primary opponent, former Colonel Tom Brewer, has been getting some local attention. Still, it remains to be seen if he can put together the kind of campaign he'd need to oust Smith in this very conservative rural district.
In the Omaha-based NE-02, Republican Rep. Lee Terry looks like he's in more danger. Three Democrats are running, with state Sen. Brad Ashford (a former Republican) being the clear frontrunner. Terry had a close call in 2012 and made news for insensitive comments during the shutdown. Terry's district went for Romney 53-46, giving him some room for error. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Likely Republican. (Jeff Singer)