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• DSCC: We've been hollering for quite some time that Democratic falloff in non-presidential elections is the biggest electoral problem the party faces today, so it's good to see that some folks with the power to do something about it are actually, well, doing something about it. The New York Times profiles a 10-state, $60 million DSCC effort called the "Bannock Street project" that aims to mobilize Democratic-leaning voters who don't ordinarily turn out during midterms—in particular, single women, minorities, and younger voters—rather than focusing on changing the minds of those who typically do.
The piece is short on specifics, but the general approach involves devoting fewer resources to television ads and more toward what journalist Sasha Issenberg calls "targeted mobilization" using modern analytics to drill down and reach potential voters at the individual level. One interesting detail is the list of states involved:
The Bannock Street project is specifically focused on ten states—Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana, and West Virginia—with plans for senior field operatives and other staff members to be in place by the end of the month.
Not on the list: South Dakota, where the DSCC has brushed off likely Democratic nominee Rick Weiland, and Colorado and New Hampshire, where polls have show Democratic incumbents facing potentially competitive races. Presumably this means the DSCC is feeling pretty good about those latter two states, though a program like this could conceivably be expanded later if need be.
• FL-13: The ad dollars are quickly adding up in the Florida special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young. The recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce buy on behalf of Republican David Jolly weighs in at $400,000, while the DCCC has added another $307,000 to their ongoing efforts. And more, of course, is on the way.
We're also taking this opportunity to revise our rating on this race, with a new twist for Daily Kos Elections. After much internal debate, we've decided to borrow a page from our friends at the Rothenberg Political Report (with their blessing) and start designating Tossup races as "Tilt Democratic" or "Tilt Republican" where we believe one party has a slight edge, but not a large enough one to definitively say the contest "leans" in a particular direction.
We'd been reluctant to adopt this rubric because we were concerned about having sufficient information at hand to make such granular judgment calls. But to stem that temptation, we've also decided to limit our use of "Tilt" ratings until we get close to Election Day, when we simply have more data available. (Rothenberg uses them earlier.)
And since we're now fewer than five weeks away from the FL-13 special, we feel comfortable taking this new approach here. While Democrat Alex Sink started off with a clearer advantage, that state of affairs no longer appears to be the case. The polling has been limited (and most of it extremely dodgy), but what little we've seen suggests a close race, and the intensity with which both sides are fighting for this seat backs up that notion.
We still think Sink has a small edge, thanks to her strong fundraising and the fact that she carried this district when she ran for governor in 2010, a very difficult year for Democrats. The presence of a Libertarian candidate on the ballot also does no favors for Jolly. But this has become a very hot battle that could go either way, which is why we're changing our rating from Lean Democratic to Tossup/Tilt Democratic.
• AR-Sen: Ugh. This isn't just bad policy—it's almost certainly bad politics, too:
"I know $10.10 still isn't a whole lot of money, but I think it's too much, too fast," [Democrat Mark] Pryor, who is seeking a third Senate term, said in an interview at the Capitol. "I'm not supportive of that."
Pryor's obviously carrying water for Arkansas-based Wal-Mart here, since polling has shown broad support for hiking the minimum wage. A December PPP survey
for Americans United for Change found 52 percent of Arkansas voters favor "raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 an hour" while only 38 percent are opposed. That framing tracks very closely with the federal proposal that Pryor is hostile to, so whose votes does he think he's winning with this stance?
What makes Pryor's views even more bizarre is that he previously said he supports a ballot measure to increase the state minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50. Arkansas is not a wealthy state and a wage hike could really help a lot of workers. Is Pryor really more afraid of Wal-Mart trying to blow him out of the water than he is of siding with a minority of Arkansans on an important issue that Democrats believe can move votes? It sure seems that way.
Meanwhile, a new Rasmussen poll finds Pryor trailing GOP Rep. Tom Cotton 45-40.
• CO-Sen: Quinnipiac's Colorado polling continues to get stranger and stranger. In the very same poll where Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's performance improved, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's mostly declined. Udall still leads the GOP field, but he's stuck in the low-to-mid-40s and is up by only tiny margins (November results in parentheses):
• 43-41 vs. state Sen. Randy Baumgardner (44-39)
• 43-41 vs. state Rep. Amy Stephens (45-38)
• 45-42 vs. 2010 nominee Ken Buck (45-42)
• 44-39 vs. state Sen. Owen Hill (45-39)
• 45-38 vs. businessman Jaime McMillan (43-40)
Even weirder, Udall's job performance rating ticked up a touch, from an even 44-44 to 45-41 now, so why would he do even worse on the head-to-heads? (Of course, Hickenlooper's approvals exploded upward by more than 10 net points.) Some polls just make you want to throw up your hands. This is one of those polls. The only explanation I've seen that makes any sense is that Colorado's now unpollable thanks to all the sweet, sweet reefer. I'm going with that.
• KY-Sen: New numbers from SurveyUSA gives Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes her first lead in a public poll since October. Grimes has a 46-42 edge over Sen. Mitch McConnell and beats his GOP primary rival, businessman Matt Bevin, 43-38. McConnell sports a ridiculously awful 32-60 job approval rating, which is somehow even worse than Barack Obama's 34-60 score. His favorability is slightly less bad, 27-50, but Grimes is still floating in basically neutral territory at 26-27. Bevin, meanwhile, is largely unknown, at 10-17.
That name recognition gap also helps explain why McConnell leads Bevin 55-29 in a primary matchup, pretty much the same as the 53-26 race PPP found in December. If McConnell truly is this unpopular, though, then Bevin may yet be able to catch him—but if McConnell's really this unpopular, Grimes might not want him to.
• MT-Sen: As expected, the Senate easily confirmed one of their own, Sen. Max Baucus, to serve as the next U.S. envoy to China on Thursday, meaning Gov. Steve Bullock, a fellow Democrat, will now have to appoint a replacement. Many observers have speculated that Lt. Gov. John Walsh, who is seeking Baucus' seat, would be a logical choice, but Bullock has remained tight-lipped about his intentions ever since the possibility of Baucus getting nominated for this ambassadorship first emerged late last year.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Steve Daines is out with his first TV ad of the election, a boring minute-long introductory spot where he mostly talks about his business career "growing companies and creating jobs." There's no word on the size of the buy.
• CA-33: Another big endorsement for Democrat Wendy Greuel: State Attorney General Kamala Harris is backing her campaign to succeed retiring Rep. Henry Waxman.
• FL-09, -26, -02: Americans for Prosperity is dumping in $400,000 to attack Democratic Reps. Joe Garcia and... Alan Grayson? Yeah, we're scratching our heads, too, seeing as Grayson's FL-09 is a safely blue district. Perhaps AFP thinks it can get conservative juices flowing by resurrecting the bogeyman 1.0 version of Grayson? Their spot (on Obamacare, natch) doesn't seem to be framed that way, though, so perhaps they're just engaged in wishful thinking. And anyway, Alan Grayson 2.0 has been much more boring.
So far, though, the Washington Post's Matea Gold says that the Grayson buy is online-only, which means the bulk of this blast is targeting Garcia in FL-26. That ad also runs on the same "if you like it, you can keep it" shtick that pretty much all of AFP's stuff relies on these days, except they haven't been able to find a clip of Garcia echoing President Obama's infamous phrase. AFP's also uploaded their new FL-02 ad that of course is on the same theme but instead praises GOP Rep. Steve Southerland because he "didn't buy" Obama's claim. This focus suggests that they don't have the goods on Democrat Gwen Graham as far as this attack goes.
• NY-21: Businessman Matt Doheny, who lost two close races to retiring Rep. Bill Owens, had been mum about running for Congress a third time—until he deployed an un-subtle depth charge on Thursday. Doheny (or his allies) leaked an internal poll from Public Opinion Strategies that shows him with a 49-13 lead over current frontrunner Elise Stefanik in a hypothetical GOP primary. And those numbers certainly make sense, since you'd expect Doheny to have some residual name recognition while the 29-year-old Stefanik is a political newcomer.
But national Republicans might not welcome the prospect of another Doheny bid. Doheny self-funded heavily (over $3 million total across both races), but the source of his wealth gave Owens one of his most potent attacks: that Doheny was a corporate-raiding vulture capitalist who would buy up companies, lay off workers, and profit from the wreckage. Doheny also had some personal distractions involving a woman who was not his fiancée (now his wife).
This may be why the NRCC ultimately rallied around Stefanik after getting rebuffed by Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan, despite Stefanik's inexperience. But Doheny would be a serious threat to win the GOP nomination again, so Republicans may get stuck with him whether they want him or not.
Meanwhile, local Democratic leaders in the 12 counties that make up the district are conducting interviews with potential candidates and plan to announce a "designee" within 10 days. That's similar to what happened before the 2009 special election that Owens won, but that process was required by law, since New York doesn't conduct primaries before specials. So this sounds like a self-started effort to minimize a contested primary, which may or may not yield positive results. (It's easy for those left out in the cold to complain about "hand-picked candidates" in "back rooms.")
But the most relevant detail to emerge is that former Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, an ex-Republican who flamed out notoriously in the 2009 special, has submitted paperwork to this committee, while two other prominent Democrats, ex-state Sen. Darrel Aubertine and Assemblywoman Addie Russell, have not. Of course, it's not strictly necessary to participate in this "designation" process, but Scozzafava has special reason for doing so: She's still a registered Republican and would need formal permission from a majority of the county chairs in the district to run in the Democratic primary.
• VA-08: Two more candidates have now joined the almost comically crowded Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran: state Del. Alfonzo Lopez and former Northern Virginia Urban League chief Lavern Chatman. The rest of the field includes four other legislators, a former lieutenant governor, a mayor, and a Some Dude—and there are still at least two more names still considering!
• Maps: Here's a cool interactive tool from the Census Bureau. You pick a county (any county!) and the map will show you its net migration flows. That is to say, counties that pop up in orange sent more people (between 2007 and 2011) to the county you've selected than they received, while blue counties received more than they sent. Mouse over each county and you can see the actual numbers of people involved. Here's New York County (Manhattan), for example. Over this timeframe, 1,776 Manhattanites fled south to Miami-Dade County, just as you'd expect. But interestingly, 845 Miamians tired of the shuffleboard life and moved to Gotham, meaning a net of only 931 New Yorkers took their talents to South Beach during the half-decade in question.
• Ideology: If it's February, that means National Journal scores, and it's our first look at the ideological rankings of Congress members who were first elected in 2012. Maybe the most interesting result—and one that the NJ devotes a whole article to explaining—is that Elizabeth Warren isn't the most liberal Senator; in fact, she's 31st, thanks to breaking with leadership on a few key votes (maybe most notably, the medical device tax). First place, instead, is a three-way tie between Brian Schatz, Chuck Schumer, and Chris Murphy.
Little-known Republican Jim Risch is the most conservative senator, while Steve Chabot is, somewhat remarkably, the most conservative representative. While OH-01 got significantly redder in redistricting, Chabot's still quite a mismatch in a 46 percent Obama district. Most liberal representative is a seven-way pileup, but there are no surprises though: Judy Chu, Keith Ellison, Donna Edwards, Sam Farr, Mike Honda, Jared Huffman, and Jan Schakowsky all vie for the honor. Full Senate and House charts are downloadable. (David Jarman)
• NRCC: Republicans are now trying to make the inverse argument that Democrats did last fall in the wake of the GOP's shutdown of the federal government: that Obamacare's difficulties are expanding their House playing field. But unlike MoveOn, which released dozens of polls in an effort to make this case (or at least, drive a narrative), the NRCC has squeezed out just four internals from Harper Polling to support its claims. None of them include crosstabs, and only one offers a proper head-to-head matchup: In CA-26, GOP Assemblyman Jeff Gorell leads freshman Rep. Julia Brownley 44-42 (though first he has to get by Marine vet Rafael Dagnesses in the top-two primary).
The other three only provide generic ballots, which I guess is at least somewhat reasonable in the open (and still unsettled) NY-21, where Generic R leads 46-34. But in NY-03 and WA-01, which lack notable Republican candidates, Harper didn't even name the Democratic incumbents (Steve Israel and Suzan DelBene), making the fact that the GOP has a narrow edge in each case not especially meaningful. More to the point, MoveOn released its polling back when serious recruitment was still underway. At this point, does the NRCC think it will land serious challengers to either Israel or DelBene? Unlikely.
That said, if Israel ever retires or there's another serious red wave, his court-mangled district could definitely be vulnerable. But you can't beat something with nothing, and right now, that's all that Republicans have.
• Ohio: Filing closed Wednesday for the Ohio's May 6 primary, and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald will face only token opposition for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. GOP Gov. John Kasich, the man FitzGerald is hoping to unseat in November, will be renominated without opposition as well. Daily Kos Elections rates the Kasich-FitzGerald matchup as Lean Republican.
All of Ohio's other statewide major party candidates face no primary challenges. The 2010 wave allowed the Republicans to sweep the ballot that year, and every Republican statewide office holder is running for reelection this year. Attorney General (and former U.S. senator) Mike DeWine will face Democratic former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper; Pepper lost the 2010 state auditor race 50-45. The man who defeated Pepper that year, Auditor David Yost, will take on Democratic state Rep. John Patrick Carney. Secretary of State Jon Husted is being challenged by state Sen. Nina Turner. Finally, Treasurer (and 2012 Senate nominee) Josh Mandel will face state Rep. Connie Pillich for the job Mandel spent years barely doing.
All 16 members of Ohio's congressional delegation are seeking re-election, and most have little to worry about in the primary or the general. One exception is freshman GOP Rep. David Joyce, who faces a credible primary challenge from state Rep. Matt Lynch in OH-14. Joyce was selected by Republican leaders late last cycle after then-Rep. Steve LaTourette bailed on his campaign months after the primary, allowing Joyce to avoid facing primary voters until now. Whether Lynch can quickly put together a competitive campaign against the well-funded Joyce remains to be seen. The winner will take on Democrat Michael Wager in a race Daily Kos Elections rates as Likely Republican.
There was one small surprise in the House filings. OH-16 GOP Rep. Jim Renacci attracted a credible last-minute Democratic challenge from former Summit County Councilor Pete Crossland. This is a tough district (Romney won 53-45 here), and we currently have this race as Safe Republican, but Crossland at least gives local Democrats a warm body. The only other race that looks potentially competitive in November is OH-06 in the eastern part of the state. We rate the match between GOP Rep. Bill Johnson and former Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Garrison as Likely Republican. (Jeff Singer)
• RSLC: The Republican State Leadership Committee, in case you aren't familiar with them, is the D.C.-based party committee tasked with electing GOP candidates to state legislatures around the country. Actually, the RSLC used to have a broader mission until quite recently, but the Republican Attorneys General Association, probably feeling their members carried more heft than a bunch of legislators, decided to split off into a separate entity. As part of this upheaval, the RSLC promoted a new interim executive director, Matt Walter, who nevertheless just published a new memo touting his party's prospects this fall.
Only it seems like the RSLC's turmoil has affected their understanding of certain basic facts. Take a look at these two excerpts from their "2014 Targets" list:
NEW MEXICO - Popular Republican Governor Susana Martinez, along with Lt. Governor John Sanchez, are positioned to win a strong reelection with Republicans poised to challenge for both chambers of the legislature [Senate 25D-17R, House 37D-33R], reelect Secretary of State Dianna Duran and see a pick-up opportunity in the race for attorney general.
MINNESOTA – Look for a competitive open seat for Secretary of State and a chance to re-establish legislative Republican majorities, especially in the House.
Hoo boy. You know which chambers are not
up for re-election this fall? The New Mexico state Senate
and the Minnesota state Senate
. Shhh ... don't tell the RSLC, though. They're poised for great gains!