Want the scoop on hot races around the country? Get the digest emailed to you each weekday morning. Sign up here
• FL-13: Candidates running in the March 11 special to replace the late Rep. Bill Young filed pre-election fundraising reports on Thursday night, covering the period between Jan. 1 and Feb. 19, and once again, Democrat Alex Sink swamped Republican David Jolly. Sink raised a massive $1.3 million while Jolly took in $639,000; in the fourth quarter of last year, Sink amassed $1.2 million to Jolly's $352,000. However, the cash-on-hand gap is even wider. Sink still had $972,000 in the bank for the stretch run, compared to just $182,000 for Jolly.
But why does that matter, you might ask, since Karl Rove and the gang are spending like crazy? The answer is that FCC rules mandate that campaigns get preferential TV ad rates compared to outside groups like American Crossroads. Indeed, the Obama campaign was able to get much more bang for its buck by making use of this rule, spending less than the GOP but airing more spots overall. Sink is riding that same advantage, since she's buying airtime at a discount—perhaps around 30 percent less than what super PACs might pay. And that will count for a lot in this very expensive race.
Those outside groups are still determined to make up the shortfall, though. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is out with what may be their final ad, which features a fast-talking announcer who slams Alex Sink for (what else is new?) supporting Obamacare despite "deep cuts to Medicare Advantage." There's also a weird moment when the ad features a clip of Sink calling the ACA an "exciting prospect," but the narrator simultaneously utters those same words right on top of Sink. Why wouldn't you just let a candidate speak for herself?
• KS-Sen: After considering the race for many months, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor has decided to run for Senate, giving Democrats a credible candidate. Unfortunately, Kansas being Kansas, Taylor's odds are very long. A recent PPP poll showed him trailing GOP Sen. Pat Roberts 48-32, and he takes the same vote share against tea partier Milton Wolf, who leads 33-32. Taylor would need an absolutely catastrophic Republican primary in order to have a shot, though given the hostilities between Wolf and Roberts, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility. And Wolf may yet get some more help in bashing Roberts, seeing as the Tea Party Express just endorsed him. So Taylor at least has reason to keep his fingers crossed—all of them.
• MI-Sen: For the second time this campaign, Republican Terri Lynn Land seems to have no idea what her position on Obamacare is. On Thursday, Land said she "applauds" Michigan's decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which might seem like a politically sensible position, except for the fact that previously said she wants to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.
But how did she come to that extremist position in the first place? Last year, you may recall, Land declared that we were "past" the idea of defunding the ACA and instead said we have to "fix" the law. But later that same day, she flip-flopped to adopt the standard conservative view that Obamacare must be repealed. So if you're counting, She's now expressed four different stances on the healthcare law:
• I support defunding Obamacare.
• We're past defunding now—we need to fix Obamacare.
• I support repealing Obamacare.
• I applaud Gov. Rick Snyder for expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.
Land makes that other notoriously wobbly Michigander—Mitt Romney—look like a model of consistency.
• MS-Sen: Democratic ex-Rep. Travis Childers, who'd been considering a comeback bid for some time, has indeed decided to run for Senate this year. Childers is probably the strongest get the Democrats could hope for, but he still faces serious obstacles in deep red Mississippi. A November PPP poll showed him trailing GOP Sen. Thad Cochran 50-33, though he did fare better against Cochran's tea-flavored primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, losing by a narrower 41-38 spread.
However, Democratic candidates typically have a high floor and a low ceiling in Mississippi politics, thanks to voting patterns that are extremely polarized along racial lines. Democrats can expect near-universal support among the state's black voters but a similar level of hostility from white voters. And since the Magnolia State is only about 37 percent black, the difficulty is clear. Even a McDaniel primary victory, which seems very possible, would probably not change the calculus sufficiently on its own.
Childers, though, has always seemed like a savvy pol, and he almost surely has polling data that shows him with a path to victory. Of course, politicians are, like the rest of us, good at deceiving themselves (Bob Kerrey's 2012 Senate bid is a prime example), and Childers doesn't have much to lose. So he may well be embarking on a fool's errand, but there's at least some chance he knows something we do not.
Meanwhile, the pro-Cochran super PAC Mississippi Conservatives is running new TV and radio ads lambasting McDaniel for his hemming and hawing over the idea of providing emergency relief for his own state after Hurricane Katrina. The TV spot features a clip of McDaniel (branded a "trial lawyer") saying a vote for Katrina relief would not have been "an easy vote to cast." The size of the combined buy is reportedly $100,000.
• NC-Sen: One of the nuttiest nutbars that ever nutted up the joint, Tim D'Annunzio, is looking to re-nut in 2014. You may remember D'Annunzio as the 2010 GOP hopeful in NC-08 who so worried his own party that they put out a contract on his political life, calling him "unfit for public office at any level." And just how nuts is D'Annunzio? This nuts:
In Hoke County divorce records, his wife said in 1995 that D'Annunzio had claimed to be the Messiah, had traveled to New Jersey to raise his stepfather from the dead, believed God would drop a 1,000-mile high pyramid as the New Jerusalem on Greenland and found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona. A doctor's evaluation the following month said D'Annunzio used marijuana almost daily, had been living with another woman for several months, had once been in drug treatment for heroin dependence and was jailed a couple times as a teenager.
Republicans were able to thwart him in the primary that year, though they lost the general election anyway. But now, after another disastrous run last cycle in a different, deep blue district, D'Annunzio is back to mess things up
for the GOP yet again. That's because Tim-diana Jones is seeking the Libertarian nomination for Senate, and if he's successful, he could draw just enough votes away from the eventual Republican nominee to save Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan's bacon.
Amusingly, though, D'Annunzio first has to win a Libertarian primary against a party activist named Sean Haugh who has run for office before. Maybe the Libs are panicking now, too, and perhaps they'll go all-out to stop D'Annunzio, just like the Republicans once did. It would certainly be amusing to watch them try. (And no, I'm pretty sure we've never written about a Libertarian primary before.)
• SD-Sen: Republican-turned-independent former Sen. Larry Pressler is somehow managing to air a stunty new ad that features grainy footage of him turning down a bribe from an FBI agent during the Abscam scandal in 1980. Pressler's hook is the recent movie American Hustle, which he mentions by name because it's based on Abscam, and he plans to run the ad during the Academy Awards. As you might expect, there's no word on the size of the buy, and the "I approve this message" disclaimer also lacks a photo or video of Pressler (as is required).
There's also a new Rasmussen poll of the race, but they managed to forget about Pressler entirely. They find Republican ex-Gov. Mike Rounds leading former Democratic congressional staffer Rick Weiland 51-31.
• AZ-Gov: Sheesh. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is still saying she might try to upend Arizona's term limits laws and seek a third term in office this year, even though the election cycle is already well underway and a plethora of GOP hopefuls has been running to succeed her for some time. A Brewer bid would inevitably be met with legal challenges by her rivals, and indeed, she might have to file a lawsuit herself if election authorities refuse to put her on the ballot. Time, however, is really running out (if it hasn't already).
Ever since Brewer began making noises about this possibility long ago, political observers speculated that it was a merely a way for her to stave off lame-duckitis. So Brewer's recent remarks ("It's a little like letting go of your baby"—creepy) might represent one final grasp at relevance, since she's promised a decision right around now. If she does try to stand and fight, though, she could be in for a seriously messy internecine fight.
• SC-Gov: The RGA is once again going in early to a state you'd think would be lower on their list of defensive priorities. First it was Wisconsin, where the group has reportedly spent $1 million on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker, and now it's South Carolina, where they're set to shell out $200,000 on an as-yet unreleased ad to prop up Gov. Nikki Haley. Of course, what we don't know is whether the RGA has some bad seekrit polls that show these seats in unexpected jeopardy, or whether they're getting involved now to prevent them from becoming more competitive later.
• AZ-07, -09: The Democratic primary in Arizona's suddenly open (and dark blue) 7th District could wind up being as crazy as the one clear across the country in Virginia's 8th, if the list of potential candidates considering the race is anything to go by. In addition to state Rep. Ruben Gallego, who announced his entry immediately after Rep. Ed Pastor said he'd retire on Thursday, two others are also already in: Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox (a heavyweight name) and state Sen. Steve Gallardo.
But a zillion more folks say they're looking at bids, according to the Arizona Republic, including Phoenix City Councilors Daniel Valenzuela, Michael Nowakowski, and Laura Pastor (Ed's daughter); state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell; former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon; Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers; and Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a civil rights activist. Also receiving Great Mentioner treatment is state Rep. Catherine Miranda. Pastor, meanwhile, says he likely won't endorse a successor.
There's also a major wrinkle lurking: For the third time this cycle, a Democratic member of Congress is reportedly considering seeking re-election in a seat held by a retiring colleague. According to a local news report, freshman Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is "rumored" to be thinking about switching over to Pastor's much bluer 7th District, instead of running again in the swingy 9th. A later article claimed she was "huddling" with advisors, though Sinema still hasn't said anything publicly.
This potential move is very similar to what California Reps. John Garamendi and Julia Brownley reportedly considered not long ago, but ultimately, both wisely decided to stay put. There are good reasons for Sinema to do so as well. Sinema, who was once a spokesperson for Ralph Nader's presidential campaign, has rather shamelessly migrated to the right in recent years, and she even joined the conservative Blue Dog Coalition just last month. She'd therefore have a hard time winning a Democratic primary in a very liberal district like the 7th—a race that's already attracted considerable interest from heavyweight contenders.
While Sinema doesn't face the easiest of re-election campaigns in the 9th (we currently rate the contest Lean Democrat), her challengers so far haven't shown themselves to be particularly strong. Sinema probably has a better chance of winning the general in AZ-09 than the primary in AZ-07. Democrats have to hope she realizes this herself, since the 9th would become a very difficult hold if she abandons that seat.
• CA-17: Democracy for America has released a new poll from PPP showing Democratic Rep. Mike Honda (whom they've endorsed, as has Daily Kos and many other progressive organizations) leading the field in his bid for re-election, but the head-to-head matchups were asked in a few different ways, so there isn't one single topline to report. When party labels are included in a primary scenario, Honda leads Republican Vanila Singh 45-29, with his more prominent and well-financed Democratic challenger Ro Khanna actually trailing with 26.
Without party labels, Honda's lead is even bigger: He crushes Khanna 62-27, while Singh is at a distant 11 percent. But note that PPP was able to come up with these separate results only by using a split sample, which means that the number of respondents in each case was below the traditionally accepted minimum of 300 (270 for the first matchup, 235 for the second). However, in both cases, Honda's margin is so wide that he's still outside the margin of error, which is around plus-or-minus 6 percent for each sub-sample.
PPP also asked about two different general election matchups (both with party labels). Honda wins both of those as well: 61-39 over Khanna and 69-31 over Singh. One thing you've probably noticed by now, though, is that DFA and PPP didn't offer respondents the option to say they're undecided. This is a choice we've always criticized in the past, since it forces voters to make up their minds when they may not be ready to do so yet and it can therefore yield misleading data. It's emphatically not a best practice, and it's one that clients and pollsters alike should eschew.
But if this polling is nevertheless accurate, it points to an intriguing option for Honda, one which we've alluded to in the past. In that first primary matchup, which more accurately reflects what the actual ballot will look like, Singh actually edges Khanna, and Honda would simply flatten her in November in this heavily blue district. Honda may therefore want to consider ratfucking on Singh's behalf, to ensure she squeaks past Khanna in the primary, in much the same way fellow California Democrat Juan Vargas successfully did in 2012.
Khanna's considerable war chest will make it a lot harder to do so, and these kind of shenanigans might also make goo-goo types queasy. But hey, this is the system California voters chose for themselves, and this is one of its consequences.
• IA-01: This is quite unexpected, but it's nevertheless good news for Iowa Democrats: Republican state Rep. Walt Rogers, who led the GOP pack (albeit not impressively) in fundraising last quarter, has decided to drop out and seek re-election to the legislature instead. That leaves two businessman in the Republican primary, Rod Blum and Steve Rathje, both of whom have raised pitifully so far. The five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination haven't wowed anyone with their fundraising prowess either, but they've done better than their GOP counterparts.
• ID-02: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed GOP Rep. Mike Simpson, is running a new compare-and-contrast ad that blasts Simpson's primary challenger, attorney Brian Smith, as a "trial lawyer" who "stood in the way when conservatives tried to end junk lawsuits in Idaho." The second half praises Simpson as a "proven conservative who will take on the trial lawyers" as some over-the-top martial music plays in the background.
• IL-13: Physics professor George Gollin, who faces former judge Ann Callis in the March 18 Democratic primary, says he's spending another $48,000 to air a second TV ad. However, the spot has not yet been released.
• MI-12: As expected, Democrat Debbie Dingell, the wife of retiring Rep. John Dingell, has launched her campaign for her husband's House seat. Meanwhile, Democratic state Rep. Rebekah Warren says she's forming an exploratory committee to look at a bid of her own. If Warren were to go for it, a new joint poll from Republican firm Revsix and Democratic outfit Mainstreet Strategies on behalf of Inside Michigan Politics shows Dingell leading 56-22 in a two-way primary matchup. In a kitchen-sink scenario, Dingell still cruises, taking 51 percent while Warren takes 16 and a trio of other state legislators is in the low single digits.
• MS-04: The other congressional comeback news out of Mississippi isn't quite so uplifting for Democrats. Ex-Rep. Gene Taylor, who served a deep-red district as a Democrat for many years before getting turfed out in 2010, has indeed decided to run for his old seat as a Republican. Taylor had been considering the possibility for a while, even though he once said he would "feel like a prostitute" if he switched parties. At least Democrats can enjoy the possibility of some cat fud, as Taylor will have to mix it up with sophomore Rep. Steven Palazzo—the guy who defeated him four years ago—in the GOP primary.
• OK-05: Former GOP state Sen. Steve Russell, who is most famous for helping to capture Saddam Hussein, has decided to run for the seat left open by Rep. James Lankford's bid for Senate. Russell joins a field that includes several other Republican office-holders and one elected Democrat, state Sen. Al McAffery.
• WA-01: If you're like me, when you heard that someone named Pedro Celis was running for Congress, the first thing you thought was, "Well, at least he already has lots of campaign T-shirts in circulation." Celis is a retired Microsoft executive, and he's now running against freshman Democratic Rep. Suzan Del Bene in Washington's 1st District, which is probably the closest thing that Washington has to a swing seat. Celis' former job means that he probably has at least some self-funding capacity (he was Mitt Romney's in-state campaign co-chair in 2012), and also that it's this district's first-ever battle between two former Microsoft execs.
Celis seems to be coming at this from an old-school moderate Republican perspective—he was a strong backer of Washington's state-level DREAM Act, which was just signed into law this month—something that may play well in the affluent Eastside suburban portions of the district. But it's not likely to be an asset in the more rural part of the 1st (in the counties to the north), which is where most of the Republicans left in the district are found. There's already a more tea-flavored Republican from further north in the race (Ed Moats, a former Snohomish County Council legislative aide), so Celis might need to spend a lot just to get out of the top-two primary. (David Jarman)
• North Carolina: Filing closed Friday for North Carolina's May 6 primary. In races where no one wins more than 40 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will advance to a July 15 runoff. The state has a complete list of candidates in contested primaries.
Eight Republicans are jockeying to take on Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan: Speaker Thom Tillis,;2004 lieutenant governor nominee Jim Snyder; former Baptist State Convention President Mark Harris; veteran Heather Grant; tea partying physician Greg Brannon; former Shelby Mayor William Alexander; and two Some Dudes. No one in the Republican field is especially well-known to voters, but recent polling suggests Tillis is the frontrunner. Daily Kos Elections rates the November general election as a Tossup.
A number of House primaries will also be worth watching. In the race to succeed Rep. Howard Coble in the Greensboro area NC-06, nine Republicans are duking it out. Only Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr. raised any real money in the last fundraising quarter, and he looks like the clear favorite. Democratic hopes of winning this district are slim: Romney won 58-41 here, and Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican. However, ex-UNC administrator Laura Fjeld displayed some unexpectedly strong fundraising for such a red district and may at least be worth keeping an eye on.
In NC-07 in the state's southeast, Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre's retirement gives Team Red an all but certain pickup in this conservative district. For Republicans, former state Sen. (and 2012 nominee) David Rouzer faces New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White and veteran Chris Andrade. The Democratic nominee will likely be New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield. Romney won 59-40 here, and Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican.
Finally, in the vacant NC-12, seven Democrats are in the mix. In the primary to replace former Rep. Mel Watt (who was confirmed earlier this year to head up the Federal Housing Finance Agency), the candidates are attorney Curtis Osborne; former Charlotte-Mecklenberg School Board Chairman George Battle; former Charlotte City Councilor and 2013 mayoral candidate George Mitchell; state Sen. Malcolm Graham; state Reps. Alma Adams and Marcus Brandon; and Some Dude Rajive Patel. A special primary to fill this vacancy will be held concurrently with the regular primary. This seat was drawn to take in African American areas stretching from Greensboro to Charlotte and is Safe Democratic at 79-21 Obama.
The state's 10 other House members (eight Republicans and two Democrats) are running again and most should have little to worry about in either the primary or general. One possible exception is NC-03 Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican with a very eclectic track record. Jones faces a primary challenge from former congressional aide William Griffin, who managed to out-raise him in the last quarter. Jones has turned back primary challenges over the years with ease, but this one may be worth watching. In any case, this coastal 58-41 Romney seat should stay in GOP hands.
The one House member who looks to be in any general election danger is Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers in NC-02. Ellmers is likely to face Democrat Clay Aiken, who was on some singing show a while back. Aiken's celebrity status may give Democrats a shot here, but at 57-42 Romney this district is a tough slog: Daily Kos Elections rates it as Likely Republican. (Jeff Singer)