• Anchorage Mayor, AK-Sen, AL: On Saturday, former Democratic Sen. Mark Begich took himself out of the running for this year's open seat mayoral race; he is starting a consulting firm instead. Plenty of potential candidates, especially Democrats, had been reluctant to oppose Begich, but are more likely to run now that the coast is clear. The filing deadline for the April 7 race is Feb. 14, so the field should take shape very quickly.
National Democrats have been hoping that Begich would take on Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski or run against Rep. Don Young. Begich explicitly didn't rule out anything for 2016 but said, "Those options are always on the table but at the time they're not what I'm focusing on." Team Blue doesn't have an obvious backup option if Begich sits this cycle out.
• IL-Sen: State Sen. Napoleon Harris, a former NFL linebacker and football star at Northwestern University, has reportedly expressed a "strong interest" in running against GOP Sen. Mark Kirk next year, but Rich Miller's writeup in Crain's Chicago Business doesn't actually offer any quotes from Harris or his associates. Harris was first elected to the legislature in 2012 and immediately sought a promotion to the House when then-Rep. Jesse Jackson resigned in disgrace. However, Harris' special election campaign turned out not to be dynamite, and he dropped out and endorsed eventual winner Robin Kelly instead.
As Miller points out, though, Harris' geographic base in the suburbs south of Chicago would overlap Kelly's, and she's also said (on the record) she's considering a bid. That would cause complications for both candidates if the two of them ran, though Harris might be more inclined to take the leap since he wouldn't have to give up his seat to do so. (He just won a four-year term in November.) But Harris might have some issues of his own in a Democratic primary since he's wobbly on choice and voted "present" when Illinois legalized same-sex marriage in 2013.
• IN-Sen: Republican Sen. Dan Coats looks much more likely to run for re-election than to retire, but the senator is still making up his mind. If Coats does call it quits, there are plenty of ambitious Republicans who could succeed him, and Howey Politics' Brian Howey takes a look at who might be interested.
All of Indiana's seven Republican House members are relatively young and could conceivably go for a promotion. Marlin Stutzman of the Fort Wayne-area 3rd District is probably the most likely to give it a shot though: He ran against Coats in the 2010 primary and for House majority whip last year, so there's no doubt he has ambition. Reps. Susan Brooks, Luke Messer, and Todd Young are quickly moving up in the House and would likely have the resources to run for Senate, though they may not want to risk their budding careers. Reps. Larry Bucshon and Jackie Walorski could also run, though they appear to have fewer influential friends.
Additionally, Howey reports that Eric Holcomb, a former state Republican chair and Coats' new chief-of-staff, is being encouraged to run if his boss doesn't. Howey also tells us that retiring Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is privately considering a Senate bid. Plenty of these people could instead run in 2018, when Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly will be up. Republican Gov. Mike Pence also may forgo his 2016 re-election campaign to run for president, and some of these politicians could try to succeed him instead.
• OH-Sen: Over the last few days there's been a lot of confusion about whether former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland is definitely running against Republican Sen. Rob Portman or if he is still mulling it over. Strickland himself broke his silence on Saturday and told the Portsmouth Daily Times that he's still "seriously considering" a campaign, and will "make a firm decision certainly within the month of February." Of course, it's quite possible that Strickland is just being publicly coy and actually has decided to run already, so read into this what you will.
• KY-Gov: Harper is the third pollster to release numbers here in the last few weeks, and the Republican group brings good news for Team Red. In a hypothetical general election match-up between state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, Comer leads 45-41. Conway also trails former Louisville Councilor Hal Heiner by a 44-42 margin.
The Democrat does a bit better against tea partying businessman Matt Bevin and former state Supreme Court Justice Will Scott, posting 4-point edges against both. It's worth noting that Harper appeared to ask a generic ballot question first (generic Republican leads generic Democrat by 48-43) that could have impacted the horserace numbers.
These results contrast with a recent Gravis Marketing survey that gave Conway leads against all Republicans (though he only outpaced Comer by 3 points), and a December poll from the Democratic group Garin-Hart-Yang that showed Conway beating everyone by double-digits. As frustrating as it is, we may need to just wait for more data to have a better understanding of the true state of the race, though it is hard to believe Conway is as far ahead as GYH says.
Harper also gives us our second look at the May 19 Republican field. They give Comer a 25-19 lead over Heiner, with Bevin taking 18; Scott lags behind at 9. Remington Research recently had Comer leading Bevin 22-19, with Heiner at 18 and Scott with 5. Heiner himself is hoping to move those numbers and is out with his second primary ad. It's a pretty boring spot, where Heiner sounds out all the usual "I'm a conservative outsider who hates Obama and loves coal" tropes you'd expect. There's no word on the size of the buy, but his first spot only ran for $21,000. Harper also looked at the Democratic primary but unsurprisingly, there's nothing to see here: Conway beats perennial candidate Geoff Young 59-13.
• MO-Gov, 03: Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer began mulling a gubernatorial bid last spring, but it doesn't sound like he'll go for it this time around. Noting his increasing seniority in Congress, Luetkemeyer said that "we will probably run for re-election again in two years." That's not a firm no, but we can probably take his name out of consideration unless we hear otherwise. Right now, state Auditor Tom Schweich and former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway have the Republican field to themselves, though other candidates could jump in.
• NC-Gov: North Carolina's 2016 gubernatorial contest should be a battle royale between Republican incumbent Pat McCrory and his likely Democratic challenger, state Attorney General Roy Cooper. McCrory and Cooper just announced their fundraising hauls for the last six months of 2014, and while McCrory brought in more, the two are sitting on similar war chests. McCrory raised $554,000 and has $1.6 million on-hand; Cooper took in $310,000 and has $1.5 million in the bank.
• Columbus Mayor: Two Democrats have emerged as the frontrunners to succeed Mayor Michael Coleman in this year's open-seat race, but one is clearly winning the money race. Former City Council President Andrew Ginther and Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott have been running for roughly the same amount of time, but Ginther has outraised his rival by a staggering $1.25 million to $194,000. It probably doesn't hurt that Ginther has the endorsement of both Coleman and former Gov. Ted Strickland. State Rep. Kevin Boyce, who considered running for this seat after Coleman announced his departure, is also backing Ginther.
Scott's reaction to the fundraising gap wasn't exactly impressive, arguing, "Just because you have a lot of money doesn't mean the voters are going to trust you." That's eerily similar to that infamous piece of loser-speak, "Our supporters don't care how much money we raise." Republican former Columbus School Board President Terry Boyd got into the race after the reporting deadline ended, so we won't know if he'll have the resources to win in this blue city for a while. The filing deadline for this contest is Wednesday and it looks like the field is set here for the May 5 non-partisan primary.
• Nashville Mayor: This crowded open-seat race just got a little more crowded, with Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry joining the fray. Gentry is the only notable African American in the contest and he did well in the 2007 election, so his presence will definitely shake things up here.
As The Tennessean's Joey Garrison notes, Gentry will start out without much money but will have a demographic base that should at least get him a spot in the runoff. Gentry will face Councilwoman Megan Barry; attorney Charles Robert Bone; former Metro Nashville School Board Chairman David Fox; real estate executive Bill Freeman; charter school founder Jeremy Kane; and businesswoman Linda Rebrovick. The filing deadline is a while away on May 21, so more candidates can still run in the Aug. 6 primary.
• NV State Assembly: As late as December, there was talk of an alliance between renegade Republicans and the chamber's Democratic minority to take power, but in the end it went nowhere. On Monday, Republican John Hambrick was elected speaker of the Assembly without any opposition whatsoever. Conservative activists have threatened to recall Hambrick and two other Republican assemblymembers over a planned tax hike, but they face long odds at even getting the question on the ballot.
• Philadelphia Mayor: We have new fundraising reports in the open Philadelphia mayoral race, which for some reason cover the very long period of all of 2014. The two frontrunners, as expected, seem to be state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and ex-District Attorney Lynne Abraham (the subject of a wide-ranging, somewhat offbeat profile last weekend). During the 12-month period, Abraham raised $510,000 to Williams' $469,000; Williams ends with more cash on hand though, $426,000 to Abraham's $410,000. (Update: Abraham's totals are a bit inflated. She released numbers for January 2015 as well: She had $196,000 on hand at the end of 2014).
Former Councilor Jim Kenney, who is all-but-certain to enter the contest, lags both with $236,000 raised and $77,000 on hand (though that may have been compiled with only another city council run in mind). Former Judge Nelson Diaz brings up the rear with only $88,000 raised and $80,000 on hand.
• Demographics: The most interesting thing that you'll read today is a provocative new article by John Judis at the National Journal, entitled "The Emerging Republican Advantage." That's noteworthy because it's a partial walk-back of the 2002 book that Judis co-authored with Ruy Teixeira, The Emerging Democratic Majority (EDM), which predicted the Obama coalition of young, non-white, and highly-educated voters. In the view of Republican gains in the last two midterms, though, Judis is less sanguine about a full realignment having happened.
It's a good, well-reasoned article, but Judis probably doesn't need to walk things back as far as he does. Instead, the original EDM should be read not so much as a guarantee of perpetual Democratic dominance in the future, but as a prediction that demographic changes would help get the Dems out of the hole they seemed to be in the early years of the 2000s—which is precisely what happened.
If you looked at 2006 and 2008 without broader context, it'd be easy to start feeling triumphal about the Democrats' future, but no one should be surprised that Team Blue would fall back from those outlying peaks. Most of the gentle push-back against Judis has come along those lines, from both the left (like on Taniel's Twitter feed) or from the mass-mediated middle (as with the Washington Post's Aaron Blake), focuses on the importance of not making sweeping predictions based on only the very few data points, filled with confounding variables, that elections offer.
If anything, the results of 2010 and 2014 may well breathe some new life into the stodgy old median voter theorem, which suggests that the natural state of politics is for things to revert to the 50-yard line. And indeed, Judis himself seems to acknowledge that in the last few paragraphs of the article. A lot of Democrats seem to think that the long-term dominance of the New Deal era can be restored, but it's entirely possible that was a long aberration from the country's usual 50/50 state, a reaction to a series of crises that the country hadn't experienced before or since.
Similarly, one of the best things about the article is that Judis steps out of the ivory tower to talk anecdotally with some middle-class swing voters. But the grievances in their comments don't suggest that they're on a permanent trajectory away from the Democrats. Instead, these are the voters who are usually going to blame whichever party is in presidential power for their current straits, the ones who flip back and forth and create the nearly-ubiquitous six-year itch in midterm elections. Instead, the other aspect that Judis says he didn't foresee in 2002, the shift of the white working-class away from the Dems, does seem like it's permanent. But they're becoming a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate, and moreover, it's not unusual for one portion of a political coalition to fall away as other groups that they don't feel they have much common cause with enter that same coalition.
There's one other point that Judis doesn't touch on much, which is important, and hopefully gets a follow-up article. Many view EDM to be mostly about presidential politics, and the states that it predicted would move into play for the Democrats are still very much in play at the presidential level. When we talk about the Republican resurgence, it's mostly at the level of Congress and the state legislatures, where demographics plays a different role; instead, it becomes about geographic clustering (which gets amplified through gerrymandering).
Democratic voters just aren't distributed efficiently enough right now to control the House except under pro-Democratic wave conditions, with so many of them in jammed into cities instead of spread throughout suburban and rural areas. When the majority of congressional districts went for Mitt Romney in 2012, even while he was decisively losing the electoral college, it should be no surprise that Republicans are back in control of the House (and the same urban/rural dynamic appears in most state houses).
• Demographics: The word "gentrification" gets thrown around a lot, but like the Supreme Court and pornography, it's always had something of a "you know it when you see it" quality. Governing Magazine has an interesting new multi-article report on gentrification, though; it's still not quite fully satisfying, but the best part is that it includes maps of 50 different cities at the census tract-level, showing where it's happening.
They're using a pretty narrow definition of "gentrification," so in a lot of wealthier cities, there's not much gentrification happening on the maps because so many hip neighborhoods that would leap to mind when you think of "gentrification" started out from too high a baseline in the first place. Several other cities, though, that started from a low baseline in 1990 (either because they were a basket case then, like Philadelphia, or hadn't been "discovered" yet, like Portland) show wide levels of gentrification across much of the city.
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.