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• FL-13: After an intensely hard-fought special election where total spending likely topped $13 million, Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink by a margin of 48.4 percent to 46.6 percent in Florida's 13th Congressional District on Tuesday night, holding the seat for the GOP. Libertarian Lucas Overby ended up with 4.8 percent of the vote. Even though Barack Obama narrowly carried the district in 2012 by about 1.5 points, it appears Sink couldn't overcome the troubling tendency for key chunks of the Democratic electorate to stay home during non-presidential elections.
Republicans will crow that unhappiness with Obamacare, which was the focus of much of their advertising, led to Sink's undoing, and it's possible those attacks provided Jolly's winning margin—but of course, with such a tight outcome, anything could have been responsible, such as Sink's personal flaws as a candidate. And importantly, the November electorate will likely be less Republican, on a relative basis, than you'd find in a March special election, so Democrats should likewise exercise caution before panicking that the Affordable Care Act spells doom.
Of course, a win is still a win, but there's a constant Beltway temptation to read far too much into a single special election. Close races also make for poor object lessons, as luck tends to play an outsize role, much like in a baseball game decided by a single run. But at the same time, even if this election augurs nothing for November, this was still very much the sort of district that Democrats need to capture in order to have a shot at some day taking back the House.
They'll still have another chance in November, and ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (a native of
neighboring Tampa St. Petersburg, the city at the district's heart) will be at the top of the ticket, running against unpopular GOP Gov. Rick Scott. But the Democratic bench here isn't especially deep, and after Sink couldn't convert despite her massive fundraising efforts, it will likely be hard for the party to recruit a strong candidate to take on Jolly a second time. As a result, Daily Kos Elections is moving this race from Tossup to Lean Republican, though we anticipate it will become less competitive and not more so in the future.
• MI-Sen: Following up on a story we've covered a couple of times, it turns out that Michigan resident Julie Boonstra, the subject of a couple of manipulative Koch brothers ads attacking Obamacare, will actually save $1,200 a year on her new health insurance plan. Boonstra initially called her new policy "unaffordable," then retreated to saying it "doesn't work for me" when her claims started to fall apart. Now Boonstra simply insists it "can't be true" that her healthcare expenses have become significantly cheaper, adding, "I personally do not believe that."
What's funny, in a sad way, is that conservatives love to decry what they call "post-modern relativism," a caricatured philosophy they think liberals subscribe to that says there's no such thing as true or false, no distinction between right and wrong. Yet when it comes to politics, conservatives have exploited this kind of "post-modern" thinking to the extreme: If something's not true, just simply insist it is, and the press has to report both sides. Boonstra and Americans for Prosperity have actually received a lot of scrutiny, which is good, but will any of this actually reach ordinary voters, or will this shifty scheme work? We'll just have to wait and see.
• NC-Sen: There's little change in PPP's latest North Carolina poll, though Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan's numbers are a bit better than in February. Now she's anywhere from +2 to -2 against the GOP field, whereas last month, she trailed just about everyone by about 2-3 points. In the Republican primary, though, nominal frontrunner Thom Tillis saw his 20-13 lead over both Greg Brannon and Heather Grant collapse into a two-way tie with Brannon at 14, a drop Tom Jensen ascribes to Tillis' recent foot-in-mouth incidents over the minimum wage and Obamacare.
• CO-Gov: Rasmussen: Gov. John Hickenlooper (D): 44, Scott Gessler (R): 38; Hickenlooper: 46, Tom Tancredo (R): 37; Hickenlooper 42, Greg Brophy (R): 33.
• FL-Gov: In front of an unflattering black background in his latest ad, Republican Gov. Rick Scott (whose net worth is $84 million) tries to explain how his allegedly modest upbringing continually inspires him to ask, "What can I do today that's going to increase the chance that companies are going to hire more people in Florida?" Scott's campaign says it's spending $2.2 million on the ad.
• MD-Gov: Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is out with a second TV ad that's mostly filled with platitudes, aside from a brief reference to his military service.
• ME-Gov: Just a few days a January poll from GQR surfaced showing him a huge 13-point lead, Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud has released his own internal from Normington Petts. Michaud's survey isn't quite as gaudy as GQR's, but he's still up 39-35 over GOP Gov. Paul LePage, with independent Eliot Cutler at 16. That edge is more similar to what we've seen in other polling, so perhaps Michaud wanted to tamp down expectations, though interestingly, the GQR numbers were initially pushed out by the DGA.
One thing's for sure, though: We haven't seen a single internal poll from LePage or Cutler, and LePage hasn't led in a single survey since last March, which was also the only time Cutler polled better than third.
• CA-45: Citing poor fundraising, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach has dropped out of the open seat race to replace Rep. John Campbell. Two other Republicans are still in the race, though: state Sen. Mimi Walters, the establishment pick, and Marine vet Greg Raths. Democratic businessman Drew Leavens is also running.
• ID-02: The Club for Growth has another ad targeting their top incumbent target of the cycle, GOP Rep. Mike Simpson. In addition to the standard stuff it hits him with (voted for the bailout, increased the debt ceiling, wanted "a bigger Obama stimulus bill"), I definitely cracked a smile at the end when the narrator says that Simpson supported spending "millions on a park in Nancy Pelosi's district in San Francisco." Sadly, there's nothing cited for that claim, but I'm dying to know what that one's all about.
• IL-13: In the first public survey of the Democratic primary in Illinois' swingy 13th District, conservative pollster We Ask America finds former judge Ann Callis leading physics professor George Gollin 41-25, while activist David Green takes 7. The election is on Tuesday.
• MI-03: In a new TV ad, businessman Brian Ellis is flaying Rep. Justin Amash over one of the many oddball votes he's taken that have put him at odds with the vast majority of the Republican Party. In this instance, the bill in question would have sought to outlaw "gender selection abortion," which a female announcer defines as "killing an unborn baby because it's not the sex the parent wanted." It was a pretty cockamamie piece of legislation, and Amash did indeed vote against.
His furious response to Ellis' ad, though, makes it seem he's oddly unaware that sticking your neck out for your "principles," whatever those may be, carries consequences on the campaign trail. Amash may be spitting mad, but he also now has to explain himself, and his campaign's claim that the proposed law "would have created a thought crime, which conservatives oppose," is not exactly an easy sell outside the Ministry of Truth. The size of the buy is reportedly $75,000.
• MS-04: I'll be curious to see what exactly Democrat-turned-Republican ex-Rep. Gene Taylor's strategy will be for defeating Rep. Steven Palazzo in Mississippi's June 3 primary, because he surely won't be able to call for any help from members of his newly adopted party. Almost all the major GOPers in the Magnolia State just signed on with Palazzo, including Gov. Phil Bryant, the state's four other Republican members of Congress, and a whole bunch of statewide elected officials. Is Taylor going to wind up any better off than Alabama's notorious Parker Griffith?
• NJ-03: We've got dueling counties in the quest for the Republican nomination in New Jersey's open 3rd District, where Jon Runyan is retiring after only two terms. (We also have dueling intel about those two counties.) The Burlington and Ocean County GOP organizations both have king-making powers here, and as we've seen in past elections (especially 2008), they don't always agree. This time, PolitickerNJ is reporting that Burlington's organization is backing wealthy insurance industry executive (and ex-mayor of Randolph, which is nowhere near the 3rd) Tom MacArthur, while Ocean prefers Toms River Township Councilor and ex-Rear Admiral Maurice Hill.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has a slightly different take, though: they say both Burlington and Ocean prefer MacArthur, though that's sourced entirely on a quote from Burlington's chair. At any rate, their preferences may not matter a lick, since the field's third (and biggest) wheel is undeterred, and plans to run in the primary without machine backing. That, of course, is Steve Lonegan, fresh off his Senate special election loss, so he has the name recognition to prevail (despite, like MacArthur, having been a mayor of a town at the other end of the state).
And PolitickerNJ has the data to confirm that. They conducted their own poll of primary voters in the 3rd, performed by Advantage Research. The survey finds Lonegan far ahead at 41 percent, with Hill at 11 and MacArthur at only 2. (David Jarman)
• PA-13: Well, here's one Big Dog Alert I just can't get excited about, though we all know why it's happening. Bill Clinton is coming to Philadelphia on April 10 to headline a fundraiser for ex-Rep. Marjorie Margolies, who famously cast the deciding vote on Clinton's controversial 1993 budget. The legislation, which included tax hikes, helped cost Margolies her seat in Congress during the GOP wave that crested the following year, but it also paved the way for the economic boom of the '90s—and Clinton is nothing if not fiercely loyal to those who are loyal to him (and his family).
Margolies, though, seems stuck in a time warp, describing herself as a centrist even though her old district has become far bluer and could easily elect a strong progressive candidate.
• WV-03: This sure ain't pretty. A new Tarrance Group poll conducted jointly for the NRCC and Republican state Sen. Evan Jenkins finds Jenkins beating Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall by a painful 54-40 margin. Back in October, a Harper poll (also for Jenkins) had the Republican ahead 46-42; since then, as Aaron Blake points out, conservative groups have spent $1.3 million attacking Rahall. So even though you can't directly compare two polls with different methodologies, you'd expect Rahall to suffer rather than Jenkins to surge, making these Tarrance numbers a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.
Tarrance also had a few stinkers last cycle. In fact, all three of their late, publicly released polls missed the mark on the GOP side, some badly:
• AZ-Sen: Tarrance: Flake (R) 49-43; actual: Flake (R) 49-46; error: +3 R
• CA-09: Tarrance: Gill (R): 46-45; actual: McNerney (D): 55.6-44.4; error: +12 R
• NV-04: Tarrance: Tarkanian (R): 50-40; actual: Horsford (D): 50-42; error: +18 R
None of this is to say that Rahall isn't seriously endangered—just that you should always bear in mind a pollster's track record when considering their numbers, especially when they're released for partisan purposes.
And Democrats certainly aren't giving up on the incumbent. The House Majority PAC has a solid new ad featuring a miner, Rick Ryan, who declares (with an authentic accent) that "New York billionaires have paid for those ads attacking" Rahall, and "they're not true." Ryan says Rahall "isn't against coal—he saved my job and 500 others when he stopped Washington from closing" a local mine. He then slams Jenkins as a "shill for the insurance companies," citing the Charleston Gazette. The buy is for $65,000.
• WA State Senate: The Washington Democrats' hopes to regain a working majority in the Senate this year (they have a numeric majority, but two members caucus with the Republicans) have a new wrinkle: First, ex-state Rep. Mark Miloscia, who represented the 30th Legislative District as a Democrat, has decided to run against Democratic state Sen. Tracey Eide as a Republican. And now, Eide has decided to retire after four terms, opening the seat up. The district, centered in the blue-collar Seattle suburb of Federal Way, went 59-39 for Obama in 2012.
Miloscia is well thought-of here and probably would have had an easy stroll to the Senate if he'd just been patient and waited to run for the open seat as a Democrat, at which point he could have just joined the ruling "Majority Coalition" and served a de facto GOPer anyway. What's more, the Democrats s don't really have a top-tier replacement ready to go (freshman state Rep. Roger Freeman seems the likeliest option). It's a blue enough district, though, that Miloscia might now have an uphill fight simply because of the "R" that he's chosen to wear.
Miloscia seems like kind of an odd duck for the GOP, too. He was always on the pro-labor side of the Democratic caucus, but was strongly socially conservative and was one of the state's few Democrats to vote against same-sex marriage. (That probably led to him losing the state auditor primary in 2012 to a more conventional Democrat, from which he may hold a grudge.) This sort of ideological configuration may be commonplace in places like Pennsylvania or West Virginia, but that's bassackwards in Washington, where moderates of both parties tend to be socially and environmentally liberal but pro-austerity. (David Jarman)
• DCCC: Every so often, as longtime election observers know, the DCCC will leak information about the dues that Democratic House members have paid—and more importantly, how much they still owe. (For some reason, though, the NRCC never seems to do this.) It's a transparently public way of trying to shame deadbeats into helping their party, which is why Buzzfeed's gotten its hands on the latest data—and interestingly, they've obtained the full spreadsheet, not the usual piecemeal numbers. (For an OCR'd version, click here.)
But does this dunning actually work? Who knows, though at least back in 2006, the netroots helped put additional pressure on safe incumbents with a campaign called "Use It Or Lose It" that succeeded in knocking loose a bunch of additional money during the stretch run. There hasn't really been a similar organized movement since then, probably because the DCCC doesn't want to be seen as working with activists to make their members' lives miserable. But the full data set is out there now, and if someone wants to recreate Use It Or Lose It, the opportunity is there.
• Montana: Filing closed Monday for Montana's June 3 primary. The state has a list of candidates available here.
Newly appointed Democratic Sen. John Walsh is running for a full term. He will face a primary challenge from former Lt. Gov John Bohlinger and first-time candidate Dirk Adams, but Walsh should be the favorite. On the Republican side, freshman Rep. Steve Daines, who already represents the entire state, is aiming for an early promotion to the upper chamber. Daines faces state Rep. Champ Edmunds and Some Dude Susan Cundiff in the primary, but he should have no problem winning. One Libertarian is also running. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as Lean Republican.
Five Republicans are running to succeed Daines for the Montana's lone house seat. The best-funded candidate looks like former state Sen. Ryan Zinke. Also in the race are state Sens. Elsie Arntzen and Matt Rosendale; former state Sen. and 2012 gubernatorial candidate Corey Stapleton; and real estate investor Drew Turiano, who ran a forgettable 2012 campaign for secretary of state. The winner is likely to take on Democratic former congressional aide John Lewis, who faces only nominal primary opposition. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as Likely Republican. (Jeff Singer)
• SCF: Despite its name, the Senate Conservatives Fund just issued endorsements in five different open seat House races: AL-06 (physician Chad Mathis); GA-11 (state Sen. Barry Loudermilk); IA-03 (Secretary of State Matt Schultz); ID-02 (attorney Bryan Smith); and WV-02 (former Maryland state GOP chair Alex Mooney). It's pretty safe to assume that all of these guys are as true believer-y as they come.