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• FL-13: Oh wow. The special election isn't until tomorrow but Republican recriminations were already flying as of late last week. If you're a connoisseur of cat fud, Alex Isenstadt's piece on David Jolly—and the GOP establishment's views of him—is a must read:
Over the past week, a half-dozen Washington Republicans have described Jolly's campaign against Democrat Alex Sink as a Keystone Cops operation, marked by inept fundraising, top advisers stationed hundreds of miles away from the district in the state capital and the poor optics of a just-divorced, 41-year-old candidate accompanied on the campaign trail by a girlfriend 14 years his junior. The sources would speak only on condition of anonymity.
Yow—even going after his girlfriend! As Isenstadt speculates, D.C. Republicans are likely laying the groundwork for a post-mortem analysis that faults Jolly, rather than themselves, for a loss on Tuesday. They may yet eke out a win, but it's pretty terrible to even be in this position in the first place. Put another way, there haven't been comparable stories about Democrats trying to pre-blame Alex Sink.
There are all kinds of great tidbits in the article, including the fact that despite finishing the January GOP primary almost broke, Jolly still had not hired a finance director—and, says Isenstadt, "some Republicans grumbled that he was reluctant to make fundraising calls." The NRCC sent staffers down to Florida to try to bail Jolly out, but Democrats used their financial advantage to beat Republicans on to the airwaves and start hammering Jolly for his career as a lobbyist.
There's much, much more at the link, including details about Jolly's communications director, who's been stationed four hours away from the 13th District in Tallahassee, and the fact that John Boehner's staff was furious that Jolly was non-committal about backing Boehner for speaker (as if fulsome support would have helped Jolly win!). Go have a read, and enjoy.
• SC-Sen-B: Former state cabinet official Rick Wade is dropping out of this fall's special election against appointed GOP Sen. Tim Scott. His move leaves Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, who had under $5,000 cash-on-hand as of her last fundraising report, as the only Democrat running.
• IL-Gov: If I could have been a high-ranking Soviet official, comrades, I'd have liked to serve as Commissar of Polling Redistribution, because this whole free market system is leading to far too many polls of some races and absolutely none at all in others. For instance, there hasn't been a single survey of the New Mexico governor's race this cycle, but there've been no fewer than 17 taken of the Illinois Republican gubernatorial primary. At least this latest one, from the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV, shows something slightly different, though: a shrinking lead for wealthy businessman Bruce Rauner.
A month ago, Rauner led state Sen. Bill Brady 40-20. Now Rauner's down to 36, and in second is state Sen. Kirk Dillard with 23, while Brady takes 18 and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford has sunk to 9. This stands in contrast to all those polls from We Ask America, which have seen Rauner on an unbroken upswing ever since he started advertising like crazy in November. The primary, however, is in just over a week, so even if this poll is correct, Dillard has very little time to make a move.
• LA-Gov: Democratic state House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards has released a poll from the Kitchens Group showing him at least reasonably competitive in next year's race for governor, though there are tons of undecideds, just as you'd expect this far out. In a four-way jungle primary featuring three other candidates—all Republicans—Sen. David Vitter leads with 26 percent while Edwards takes 21, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne 9, and state Treasurer John Kennedy 7. Only two head-to-head matchups were included, though. Vitter edges Dardenne 32-28 and beats Edwards 38-32.
• MD-Gov: As expected, we now have introductory ads from the two leading rivals in Maryland's Democratic primary for governor. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown narrates his family and personal history in a minute-long spot, focusing heavily on the fact that he was called up for duty in Iraq at the age of 43. Attorney General Doug Gansler's ad is also 60 seconds, but he goes a different route, talking about his achievements in office, such as taking on polluters and abusive banks.
• ME-Gov: For some reason, a mid-January GQR poll for progressive group America Votes, and it shows Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud garnering by far the biggest edge he's ever seen. In a three-way throwdown, Michaud puts the hurt on GOP Gov. Paul LePage by a 45-32 spread, with independent Eliot Cutler far back at 18. However, the number of undecideds is extremely low—just 3 percent—which is the opposite of what we see with a lot of polling this far out. And most polls have given Michaud a lead in the low single digits, though a GQR survey last July (for a different client) had Michaud up 40-31.
• PA-Gov: Businessman Tom Wolf's sudden rise in the polls is a direct result of how much he's advertising on TV (and how little everyone else is), but now it seems like he's getting some establishment support—enough to suggest he might have some staying power once the Democratic primary campaign begins in earnest. Indeed, a number of top Pittsburgh-area pols just endorsed Wolf on Saturday, including Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, and Rep. Mike Doyle.
That seems like bad news for state Treasurer Rob McCord, who's gotten the bulk of the local-level endorsements so far, but maybe even worse news for late entrant Jack Wagner, a former state auditor. Wagner is the only Pittsburgh-area resident in the field, and he can't apparently even get his hometown crew to back him. Wagner, however, lost last year's mayoral primary to Peduto, so that may have been a factor in why he's been frozen out. (David Jarman)
• WI-Gov: GOP Gov. Scott Walker's first ad of the cycle goes right after a flimsy claim made by Democrat Mary Burke in her first ad. In that spot, Burke said "under Walker, unemployment's up." The problem is that's... not true. Walker's narrator points out that unemployment dropped from 7.8 percent (in Dec. 2010, the month before Walker took office) to 6.3 percent now.
Burke's argument rests on starting the clock when she served as the state's commerce secretary, when unemployment was 4.8 percent. That might be defensible (albeit incredibly thin), but the whole "under Walker" framing just sounds totally misleading. It gives Walker an opening to ask (via the narrator), "Why would you start your campaign out with a lie?" The size of the buy is reportedly $100,000.
• CA-15: Freshman Rep. Eric Swalwell continues to attract support from the Democratic establishment. A few days ago, he earned the endorsement of one Barack Obama; now, he's picked up the backing of California's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein.
• CA-17: The League of Conservation Voters, which has become one of the more active pro-Democratic outside spending groups, has endorsed Rep. Mike Honda for re-election. We won't know for quite some time whether LCV will in fact shell out any cash here, but unlike a lot of other organizations, their endorsements are actually worth something when they get involved.
• CO-04: Yo, McNutty! GOP state Rep. Frank McNulty, who'd been considering a bid for Rep. Cory Gardner's now-open House seat, says he's not getting on that boat.
• IL-11: Illinois really only has two districts with notable congressional primaries: the 11th and the 13th. For an update on the latter, see below. As for the former, the GOP nominating contest has not garnered a lot of attention, mostly because Rep. Bill Foster looks to be in very good shape for re-election, and none of his five potential opponents has made much of a splash. Indeed, no one even came close to impressing in the pre-primary fundraising period (covering January and almost all of February):
• Businessman Bert Miller: $79,000 raised, $92,000 cash-on-hand
• State Rep. Darlene Senger: $25,000 raised, $50,000 cash-on-hand
• Some Dude Craig Robbins: $0 raised, $5,000 cash-on-hand
• Grundy County Board Member Chris Balkema: no report filed
• Radio host Ian Bayne: no report filed
So you see what I mean. (And Balkema's particularly pathetic—dude's an elected official!) Foster, by contrast, raised $127,000
and has $892,000 cash-on-hand.
Strangely enough, though, a conservative group called the New Prosperity Foundation (more on them here) is running a a new ad on behalf of Miller. A narrator grumbles a bit about "runaway spending" and "trillions in debt," then touts Miller's record as a job creator. The size of the buy is something under $53,000, since the linked independent expenditure report combines placement and production expenses (though given how cheaply produced the spot is, it can't have cost much).
• IL-12: Pre-primary fundraising reports are also out in Illinois' 12th Congressional District, and they do not look good for GOP state Rep. Mike Bost, the only Republican running. He raised just $44,000 since the beginning of the year and only $184,000 total since entering the race last summer. Unlike some candidates, Bost cannot write himself a huge check to compensate: He estimated his net worth at between $68,000 and $200,000.
Freshman Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart, whom Bost is hoping to unseat, has not had an earth-shattering year in terms of fundraising so far. Still, Enyart's $87,000 in the most recent period is almost twice as good as Bost's haul. Moreover, the Enyart has a huge $451,000 to $46,000 cash-on-hand advantage. Bost has been running for the better part of the year and has not shown that he has what it takes to run a competitive race.
Obama only narrowly carried the 12th by a 50-48 margin, so Democrats cannot take this seat for granted. Enyart, however, is a good fit for this district, thanks in part to his military credentials, while Bost has a well-known temper problem. With Bost proving to be a weak candidate, the incumbent's chances are looking up. As a result, we're moving this race from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic. (Jeff Singer)
• IL-13: It looks like we already have our first negative ad in a Democratic primary this cycle, and it comes from physics professor George Gollin, who is vying for his party's nomination with former judge Ann Callis. Gollin accuses Callis of "fold[ing] to the tea party agenda," then selectively truncates a quote from Callis. The narrator intones, "Ann Callis said this about cutting Social Security," followed by audio of Callis saying, "We're going to have to see what's there and what we remove," as the word "remove" is repeated in an echo-like fashion. The narrator then declares, "Cut Social Security? Ann Callis wants what the tea party wants."
It's a very dirty move, though. Here's Callis' actual, full statement, in an public radio story about Social Security from December:
"Let's see where we're at in a cohesive manner. And then if there are issues—if they say, definitively, this is, this is a looming problem, this is going to happen to your, your grandchildren, you know, then we're going to have to see what's there, and what we remove, and what we don't."
There are some pretty big "ifs" there, as Callis explicitly hedged. But Gollin cut off the entire first half of Callis' remarks, a move usually described as "taking something out of context." I seldom have a problem with rough and tumble politics, but accusing someone of wanting to do X when all they've said is that maybe
they'd do X if certain conditions are met is really a bridge too far. (Local blogger Big Debbie offers an even more thorough takedown
of the ad.)
There's very little time ahead of the March 18 primary, though, and Gollin either trails in the polls or feels uncertain about his standing, since you don't typically go negative down the stretch if you think you're the overdog. Gollin also trails in fundraising, taking in $76,000 between Jan. 1 and Feb. 26 while Callis raised $102,000 in that timeframe. Callis also had a big cash edge going into the final weeks, $449,000 to $227,000.
On the GOP side, former Miss America Erika Harold has once again proven her ineptitude, with a haul of just $61,000 and only $137,000 in the bank. The man she's trying to unseat, Rep. Rodney Davis, continues to raise well, with $328,000 collected in the pre-primary period and $1.1 million cash-on-hand. Some polling months ago showed Davis crushing Harold, and while we haven't seen any numbers lately, it's unlikely things have changed.
• MI-12: The odds of a competitive Democratic primary in the race to replace retiring Rep. John Dingell just shrunk considerably, as state Sen. Rebekah Warren has said no to a bid. A poll of the race showed Warren trailing frontrunner Debbie Dingell by a wide margin, so her decision is not too surprising. A few other state legislators (who were even further back in that same poll) still haven't declared their intentions, though.
• NY-11: Socially conservative clergyman Eric Salgado is saying he might seek the Democratic nomination for the Staten Island-based 11th District, a move that would make life more difficult for former New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia, the party's choice to take on GOP Rep. Mike Grimm. But it's hard to gauge how serious Salgado is: He scraped together barely 2 percent in last year's mayoral primary.
• PA-09: GOP Rep. Bill Shuster, who faces a longshot primary challenge from tea partier Art Halvorson, is airing his first TV ad of the campaign, backed by a reported $400,000 buy. In an amusing attempt to short up Shuster's conservative credentials, the narrator touts the fact that he "voted against Obamacare 42 times." Shuster also "fought to cut $10 trillion in wasteful spending," but there's no citation for that claim, and whatever this refers to, Shuster lost that fight.
• WA-10: The Washington state GOP isn't giving up on those light-blue House seats they keep whiffing on. They recently found a wealthy ex-Microserf to run in WA-01, and now they've found a credible local elected official to run against freshman Democratic Rep. Denny Heck in the Tacoma-to-Olympia 10th (which gave Obama 56 percent in 2012). Their horse here is Joyce McDonald, who served in the state House from 1998 to 2008 and has been a Pierce County Councilor since then. If you'll recall, though, two other Pierce councilors, Dick Muri and Stan Flemming, fought each other in the WA-10 primary in 2012, with Muri going on to lose badly to Heck in the general. (David Jarman)