Democrats are hoping they can make Rod Blum (right) a one-term wonder
• IA-01: Democrats were not happy to lose this blue-tinted eastern Iowa seat last year to Rod Blum, and they're looking to retake it posthaste. 2014 primary candidate and Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon has wasted little time in jumping into this race, kicking off her campaign on Thursday.
Vernon, who served as gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch's running mate later in 2014, probably won't have the field to herself though. Roll Call tells us that two of her former primary opponents, former state Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic and former state Sen. Swati Dandekar, are potential candidates. Obama won 56-43 here in 2012 and Blum has already attracted some bad headlines, so this should be one of Team Blue's best pickup opportunities anywhere.
• CA-Sen: After state Attorney General Kamala Harris declared that she'd run for Barbara Boxer's Senate seat on Tuesday, we thought that the proverbial dominoes would start falling on the Democratic side, especially since the DSCC made it clear that Harris is their preferred candidate. However, nothing of the sort has happened yet. In fact, several other would-be contenders have recently piped up to indicate their renewed interest in the race, though some may just be hanging around for a bit to avoid giving off the appearance that they're getting pushed out.
One guy who probably isn't concerned about those sorts of optics, though, is billionaire Tom Steyer, who publicly confirmed he was considering a bid hours after Harris announced hers. But Steyer definitely wants the establishment to think he's serious and relevant, which is why he just released a poll from FM3 that shows ... well, it doesn't show anything at all, really. There are no horserace or even name ID numbers; the survey just includes factoids about how many voters "say they would be likely to support a national leader in promoting new clean energy technologies." (Seventy-nine percent! Wow!)
But maybe Steyer should be worried about perceptions after all, because the memo's "To:" field is remarkably grating. As Josh Richman of the Contra Costa Times points out, there's some massive ego at play here:
Lest anyone worry how healthy an opinion Steyer, 57, of San Francisco has of himself, the memo was addressed to "Team Cincinnatus"—presumably referring to the Roman statesman hailed as an icon of virtue, selflessness and humility after twice being chosen for, and then twice resigning, the mantle of dictator in order to protect the republic. Big sandals to fill, there.
Friends, Californians, countrymen... the fault is not in our polls, but in ourselves. Semper ubi sub ubi!
Meanwhile, an actual poll with actual numbers has indeed surfaced, courtesy of The Hill. The survey, conducted by PPP on behalf of "allies" of a "potential candidate," split its sample into two hypothetical primary fields but notably did not include former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Given Villaraigosa's relatively high name recognition, that makes this data much harder to interpret, but here goes:
Tom McClintock (R): 28
Kamala Harris (D): 27
Neel Kashkari (R): 12
Eric Garcetti (D): 7
Linda Sanchez (D): 6
Tom Steyer (D): 6
Tom McClintock (R): 29
Kamala Harris (D): 22
Neel Kashkari (R): 12
Jackie Speier (D): 8
Linda Sanchez (D): 8
Tom Steyer (D): 4
Unsurprisingly, Harris—the only announced candidate from either party—is the top-performing Democrat, and she's neck-and-neck with McClintock in the first pairing. (McClintock's name, though, has never surfaced in connection with this race.) However, in the second matchup, PPP swapped Speier for Garcetti; like Harris, Speier is from the Bay Area, so she appears to drive Harris' vote share down. PPP also tested one runoff, finding Harris ahead of Garcetti 35-20, meaning half of all voters in that rather unlikely scenario are undecided.
(It's rather unlikely because Garcetti already said no to a bid—though in fairness to PPP, this poll was conducted at the tail end of December, before Garcetti made his intentions public. That means, by the way, that the poll was in the field before Boxer officially announced her retirement.)
That still leaves us with a big question: Whose friends paid for this survey? Assuming it was buddies of someone actually tested in one of the matchups, that takes McClintock and Kashkari out of the equation, since PPP doesn't work for Republicans. Steyer has his own polling and doesn't need someone else to lure him into the race (besides, numbers like these aren't exactly convincing).
And while Harris might seem like an obvious choice, she's an actual, not potential, candidate. Assuming Garcetti's pals didn't leak this poll for the hell of it, that leaves just Speier or Sanchez, assuming it isn't some mystery person who wasn't even polled. What's your guess?
P.S. Wealthy physicist Charles Munger, Jr., whose named had surfaced as a possible Republican option, said on Thursday that he would not run for Senate. "Wealthy physicist" is not exactly the most common biographical description, but Munger is the son of Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Charles Munger, Sr. and could have self-funded.
• CO-Sen: Sen. Michael Bennet will be one of the most vulnerable Democrats up in 2016, and there are plenty of strong Republicans who could take him on. However, the NRSC probably won't be clearing the field for El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who announced on Thursday that he would run. Glenn has a long career in Colorado Springs politics but he has a lot to prove if he wants major outside support.
National Republicans may be more inclined to return Rep. Scott Tipton's calls though. The Western Slope congressman's name hasn't been mentioned much in connection to this seat, but on Thursday his office didn't close the door on the possibility that he'll take on Bennet. Tipton unseated Democratic incumbent John Salazar in 2010 and easily beat back a credible challenger in 2012, so he does have some recent campaign experience. His 52-46 Romney seat could be vulnerable if he leaves, though his party would start out favored to keep it.
• NH-Gov: New Hampshire Republicans wound up with a pretty weak lineup in the 2014 gubernatorial race, but 2016 may be a bit different. Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau announced on Wednesday that she won't seek re-election, a move that could free her up to run for governor. Lozeau herself isn't ruling it out, and she seems to be keeping her options open. It's unclear if Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan will seek a third two-year term or if she'll run for Senate like national Democrats hope.
• NY-11: It's going to be a while before Democrats pick their nominee for the upcoming special election, but it looks like we can take one name out of contention. Former Rep. Michael McMahon initially sounded very interested in trying to reclaim his old seat, but he's quietly faded from view since the new year began. It sounds like even the party insiders who will pick the nominee haven't heard from him in weeks, and it seems few people expect him to run any longer. McMahon flirted with a comeback attempt in 2012 and 2014 too before ultimately deciding not to run, so this isn't a huge shock.
Assemblyman Michael Cusick has been treated as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for a while, but he hasn't announced his intentions yet. Unlike McMahon, Cusick has been meeting with party operatives but no one's sure if he'll actually run in the end. Both Cusick and McMahon are from Staten Island, which makes up most of the district and is full of voters who won't settle for a congressman from another borough. But if Cusick doesn't run, Team Blue may be stuck with a Brooklyn-based candidate, which will likely give presumptive Republican nominee Daniel Donovan another advantage in a contest he's already favored in.
And a new citywide Quinnipiac poll gives us a good idea of how local events are going to make a Democratic victory a tough sell on Staten Island. While across New York City a strong majority of voters strongly disapprove of the grand jury's decision not to indict the officer who choked Eric Garner to death, Staten Islanders see things completely differently: By a 56-37 margin they say the grand jury made the right call. Donovan was criticized for not securing the indictment, but it doesn't seem like this will hurt him among the electorate. Staten Islanders also have a very dim view of Mayor Bill de Blasio in his dispute with the NYPD. While 69 percent of New Yorkers think that police were wrong to turn their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio at two recent funerals for slain officers, in Staten Island voters are narrowly split.
And while Quinnipiac hasn't yet released de Blasio's overall job approval numbers, other questions show he's deeply unpopular on Staten Island. Citywide, the mayor earns a 50-41 rating for his handling of crime, for instance, but a negative 28-67 score on Staten Island. Republicans aren't making it any secret that they're going to tether the eventual Democratic nominee to de Blasio, and this poll suggests that they know what they're doing. Now only about 100 respondents for this survey are Staten Islanders, so the margin of error is quite high for that sub-sample. But when the margins are consistently this huge, the results are still meaningful even with wide error bands. And none of these numbers are good news for Democrats hoping to wrest this district back from Republicans.
• NY-19: On Wednesday Republican Sen. James Seward expressed interest in running for this open Upstate swing seat for the first time. Seward says he's planning to make an announcement in the spring. If he did leave Albany Democrats would have a better shot at his state Senate seat, which Obama won 50-48. Assemblyman Peter Lopez, a fellow Republican, also recently expressed interest in succeeding retiring Republican Rep. Chris Gibson; there are also plenty of other prospective candidates on both sides who may jump in.
• Demographics: Here's a cool observation from the Wall Street Journal's Dante Chinni, regarding the racial composition of congressional districts that are currently held by Republicans, versus those that are currently held by Democrats. The aggregate racial composition of the GOP-held districts is very similar to what the racial composition of the country, as a whole, was in 1995. The racial composition of the Dem-held districts is very similar to what the Census Bureau projects the country's racial composition, as a whole, will look like in 2045. It's facile conventional wisdom that the GOP is the party of the past and the Democrats are the party of the future, but now we have a way of actually quantifying that and showing it in a simple chart.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Taniel, and Dreaminonempty.