Florida Gov. Rick Scott, one of the many Florida Republicans who have benefited from weak Democratic midterm turnout
• FL-Gov: With Democrats smarting badly from terrible midterm turnout, here's a truly great, outside-the-box idea: Let's move some gubernatorial races to presidential years. It's not as crazy as it sounds. As Kevin Cate, an advisor to Charlie Crist, explains, Florida's quadrennial contest for governor used to coincide with the presidential election, but segregationists grew worried that increased turnout would threaten their grip on state politics.
So they amended the state constitution to move the governor's race to the midterm cycle, which meant that the winner of the 1964 election, racist Jacksonville Mayor Haydon Burns, served only two years. But from then on, gubernatorial contests were held every four years, always during midterms.
(Incidentally, Cate says that the Dixiecrats were worried that liberals like JFK would act as "a drag on the (conservative) Democratic ticket," while scholars cited by Wikipedia elaborate that coattails from strong Republican presidential contenders where that the old political establishment feared. In any event, the gambit failed. Burns lost to a more liberal candidate in the 1966 primary, Miami Mayor Robert King High, whom he'd defeated two years previously. Burns wouldn't endorse High afterward, and the intra-party split led to Florida electing its first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Claude Kirk.)
Now, though, there's no reason why Democrats can't simply return things to the way they once were. Cate thinks that a measure to move gubernatorial races back to the presidential cycle would cost just $4 million, though that's just for signatures. Actually getting the 60 percent needed to amend the constitution would cost a lot more. But Charlie Crist spent almost $50 million this year to fall just short of beating GOP Gov. Rick Scott, and now that money is gone.
By contrast, a successful ballot measure (which would entirely bypass the Republican legislature) would pay dividends for years to come. It might also be possible to push similar shifts in states like Michigan and Ohio. Republicans will surely howl that Democrats want to "rig" the system, but all these changes would simply be aimed at increasing the voter pool for important races. That's just the right thing to do.
• LA-Sen: Republican Bill Cassidy has released an internal poll ahead of his Dec. 6 runoff with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, and it's about as ugly as you'd expect. Magellan Strategies finds Cassidy up 57-41: In the November jungle primary Cassidy, tea partier Rob Maness, and a Some Dude Republican led Landrieu and a few minor Democrats 56-43, so this result is unfortunately plausible.
Somewhat weirdly, the poll asks voters about Congress's priorities before the horserace number, which could influence the results. This is the first post-Nov. 4 survey to see the light of day, though there will probably be others soon enough. If Landrieu does have a poll showing her still in the fight she'll definitely want to release it soon, especially since her own party appears to have given up on her.
• NV-Sen: It's no secret that national Republicans are doing everything they possibly can to get popular Gov. Brian Sandoval to run against Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in 2016. Sandoval is reportedly very reluctant to run though, and on Wednesday he repeated his commitment to serving out his new four-year term. This is far from a Shermanesque statement and his party is going to keep pushing him until he either takes the plunge or makes it absolutely clear that he's not running.
Nevertheless, Reid's Republican colleague Dean Heller has named a few backup candidates: Reps. Mark Amodei and Joe Heck, and Lt. Gov.-elect Mark Hutchison. Amodei ran for this seat in 2010, but dropped out when he failed to gain any traction. His profile has increased since he was elected to Congress, and he'd be a much better get for the GOP now. However, Amodei hails from a red northern Nevada seat and he doesn't have much experience winning over swing voters, though he did easily defeat a well-funded Democrat in the 2011 special election.
By contrast, Heck held his suburban Las Vegas seat by a 50-43 margin even as Obama was taking it 50-49. Hutchison also has experience winning over crossover voters in southern Nevada. He won his state Senate seat 51-49 as Obama was taking 52-47 there; Hutchison also just won his statewide race 60-34. While Reid is not the most popular guy in the world he proved in 2010 that he'll do whatever it takes to win, and all of his would-be Republicans rivals know that this will not be an easy race.
• DSCC, DCCC: Senate and House Democrats have already begun considering candidates for the 2016 cycle, and their wish lists include a lot of very familiar faces.
On the Senate side, the National Journal reports that defeated incumbents Kay Hagan and Mark Begich are potential candidates against their soon-to-be former homestate colleagues Richard Burr and Lisa Murkowski respectively. Begich is also reportedly considering a run against Republican Rep. Don Young, whose ethics and behavior have gotten him in trouble more than once. There are plenty of other names on the list, but probably the most likely repeat candidate is Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania. Sestak narrowly lost the 2010 Senate race to Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and he's made it no secret that he's very interested in a rematch.
Over in the House, Roll Call reports that the DCCC is already eying five unsuccessful 2014 candidates for another run. Emily Cain came close to winning the open Maine 2nd District so it's no surprise that she's being recruited again. Andrew Romanoff didn't get close to taking out Rep. Mike Coffman in the swingy CO-06 but he raised a boatload of money, and he should have a much better shot in a bluer year.
Three defeated incumbents are also being asked to try and get their seats back: Brad Schneider of IL-10; Steven Horsford of NV-04; and Pete Gallego of TX-23. Schneider fell 4-points short defending an ancestrally Republican seat and Gallego only lost a light red swing constituency by about 2 points, and it makes sense to try and get them back. Horsford is a bit more surprising, since he did lose a 55-44 Obama seat to the underfunded Cresent Hardy.
However, Horsford was largely the victim of turnout problems at the top of the ticket, and party leaders may feel he did the best he could with a bad hand. The GOP wave also did a number on the Democrat's Nevada bench, so there may not be too many other viable candidates. If Horsford isn't interested, 2014 lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores, who lives in the district, may be a good alternative. Flores badly lost to Republican Mark Hutchison but that also may have been due to poor turnout instead of anything she did wrong.
• DSCC, NRSC: Democrats went with an untraditional choice for their new DSCC chief, picking Montana Sen. Jon Tester on Thursday. (Delaware Sen. Chris Coons withdrew from consideration.) Committee chairs have generally been cut from more of the establishment-insider mold and often hail from blue states in the Northeast. Tester, an organic farmer who lost three fingers in a farm accident at the age of 9, represents a decidedly red state, and with his trademark flat-top, he definitely doesn't look like central casting's idea of a senator—something he's often played to his advantage.
Tester certainly knows a lot about winning difficult races on hostile turf, and before joining the U.S. Senate, he helped Democrats win back the Montana state Senate. But as with any DSCC chair, Tester will be judged by whether he can raise money and recruit good candidates, especially since Democrats badly need to take full advantage of the favorable map they'll have in 2016. Perhaps by presenting a face that's a little less buttoned-down than that of his predecessors, he'll have success with both.
Meanwhile, on the GOP side, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker beat out his Nevada colleague, Dean Heller, to helm the NRSC. On paper, Heller seemed to be the better option, since he, like Tester, has had to win election on less-than-friendly territory; Wicker, by contrast, has been on cruise control in conservative Mississippi. However, according to Sarah Mimms, it sounds like Wicker is more of a party loyalist, a quality Republicans always value highly.
• VT-Gov: Republican Scott Milne came dangerously close to upsetting Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin on election night, losing only 46.5 to 45.3 percent. Because no one took a majority the state legislature will pick the new governor: Democrats dominate both chambers and there's really no doubt that they'll go with Shumlin, as they did in 2010. The last time the legislature chose the gubernatorial candidate who didn't get the most votes was 1853.
While Milne acknowledges that Shumlin did win a plurality, he is arguing that the legislature should break with tradition and choose him instead. Milne claims that since he won a majority of the legislative seats, he deserves to be picked. State Republican Party Chairman David Sunderland is also calling on legislators to vote the way their constituents voted and pick Milne.
On the facts Milne and Sunderland are correct: Milne did win more seats than Shumlin. Our preliminary analysis finds that Milne won 53 House seats to Shumlin's 51. House seats can have either one or two representatives each, and we found that of the 150 state representatives, 79 sit in Milne seats. Milne won eight of the 13 Senate seats. However, 15 senators represent Shumlin districts while 15 represent Milne constituencies.
Milne still doesn't have a particularly strong case though. As we've noted in the past, Vermont's map is a bit to the right of the state. In the 2012 presidential race the median House seat was 4 points more Republican than the state, while the median Senate seat was 9 points to the right. Vermont is normally so blue that this doesn't do the Republicans much good: Obama carried every single legislative district. However, in the gubernatorial race district-by-district results make Milne look stronger than he is. While the median Senate seat voted for Shumlin by a similar margin as the entire state, Milne won the median House seat 46.6 to 43.8: 4 points better than his statewide performance.
These lines were drawn by Democrats and signed into law by Shumlin himself, so he can't blame the GOP for leaving him with an unfavorable map. Still, it's clear that in this case, the House results aren't representative of how the state voted. It's a similar situation as the 2012 presidential race where Romney lost the national popular vote by 4 points but still took a majority of the congressional districts. It's almost impossible to imagine the legislature going with Milne's argument and breaking tradition: Shumlin's plurality win was shockingly weak but it was still a win.
• VA State House: Virginia is one of just four states holding legislative elections next year, and since the others are Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Jersey, the Old Dominion is the most interesting of the quartet. As Johnny Longtorso recently explained, Democrats would need a lot of luck to take back the state Senate, but hopefully they can make some gets in the lower chamber, where they're still deep in the minority.
One state House special election is right around the corner: On Jan. 6, both sides will square off in the 34th District, which will soon be vacant because GOP Del. Barbara Comstock just won a seat in Congress. Comstock Democrat Kathleen Murphy by just 422 votes last year, and Obama even carried the 34th by about half a percentage point. Statewide Democrats who ran in 2013 did considerably better, with Mark Herring prevailing 55-45 in the ultra-tight attorney general's race (which was ultimately decided by a recount).
Murphy is running again, and it looks like she'll be the unanimous choice of party leaders at a caucus on Saturday. Republicans, meanwhile, will conduct a firehouse primary the same day to choose between consultant Allen Johnson and businessman Craig Parisot. This will still be a tough pickup for Murphy with no help at the top of the ticket, but it's still a good shot for Team Blue.
Other opportunities will have to wait until November, but another strong candidate from 2012, Jennifer Boysko, says she'll try once more, too. Boysko lost even more narrowly to Republican Del. Tom Rust, falling short just 60 votes after a recount. Rust's 86th District is solidly blue—Obama won it 60-39—and only his reputation as a longtime moderate has allowed him to hold on. But Rust is 73 and could retire, though no matter how he chooses to go, his number will come up one day soon.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, with additional contributions from Jeff Singer, David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Taniel, and Dreaminonempty