Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is expected to forgo re-election in order to run for president
• FL-Sen: Both parties expect Republican Sen. Marco Rubio to seek the White House next year rather than run for re-election, though he hasn't announced his plans yet. There is no shortage of notable Republicans interested in replacing Rubio, though some would-be candidates may decide to sit out this cycle and run for governor or for the other Senate seat in 2018. On Thursday, two more prominent Republicans made it known that they're considering a bid.
Former state House Speaker Will Weatherford has been talked about as a potential Senate candidate for a while, and even Rubio himself recently touted him. Until now, Weatherford has been pretty quiet about his plans, but the Tampa Bay Times finally extracted a quote from him. Weatherford says that it's "too soon to make a decision," but he notably did not deny interest.
Rep. Vern Buchanan also told the Times that he's going to "take a look at it." Buchanan is a particularly interesting possibility, because he's personally wealthy (he owes a number of car dealerships) and would be able to self-fund ... perhaps not to the same extent as, say, Rick Scott, but at least enough to put a large operation in place quickly.
On the other hand, Buchanan has some previous black clouds hanging over him. There have been various lawsuits and ethics investigations regarding shady campaign finance practices, centered on those same auto dealerships. As recently as 2012, Democrats tried went after Buchanan over these stories, but he easily turned back a credible challenger that year and cruised to victory in 2014. But while these allegations have since petered out, opposition research by both primary and general election opponents are likely to bring them back to front and center. Romney won Buchanan's Sarasota-based 16th District by a 54-45 margin, so the NRCC probably won't have much to worry about if he runs for Senate.
Buchanan and Weatherford are far from the only Republicans eying Rubio's seat. State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (a close Rubio friend) recently met with national Republicans about a possible bid. Rep. Ron DeSantis has also been publicly considering a campaign, and there are a considerable number of other politicians who might jump in once Rubio finalizes his departure.
So far, things are far less chaotic on the Democratic side. Rep. Patrick Murphy has made it no secret that he's strongly considering running regardless of what Rubio eventually does, and his team didn't deny rumors that he'll kick off a campaign on March 23. The DSCC also hosted a meet-and-greet with Murphy on Thursday, something they probably wouldn't be doing if they didn't think he was in. Fellow Rep. Alan Grayson has also talked about joining the contest, but he's in no hurry to decide.
• CA-Sen: On Thursday, EMILY's List threw it's support behind state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is still the only Democrat in the race. It's actually kind of surprising that it took them this long.
• MD-Sen: EMILY's List announced on Thursday that they would endorse Rep. Donna Edwards in the Democratic primary. The move comes a few days after Buzzfeed reported that EMILY was trying to convince Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to run, and was leaning toward backing her over Edwards. While it's possible that Edwards just won them over, this move indicates that Rawlings-Blake will stay out of the contest after all. Edwards starts out with a financial disadvantage against fellow Rep. Chris Van Hollen, and EMILY's support should give her some very useful outside support.
So far, Van Hollen is Edwards' only primary opponent. However, Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Delaney, and Elijah Cummings all reaffirmed in recent days that they still are very interested in running. If Rawlings-Blake doesn't enter the fray, it could give Cummings more incentive to run: Both are well-known African Americans from Baltimore, and they would likely cost each other votes if they each entered the primary.
• KY-Gov: Former Louisville Councilor Hal Heiner is out with yet another spot ahead of the May 19 Republican primary. There's (say it with me now) no word on the size of the buy, but Joseph Gerth of the Courier-Journal reports that Heiner's already spent $1 million on ads, so we should assume there's some juice behind this one too. Heiner's new commercial features him boringly talking about job growth, with him declaring that he's "not a politician." I'm pretty sure that if you're appearing in ads asking people to elect you governor you are by definition a politician, but what do I know.
• WV-Gov: We have our first Democratic candidate for the 2016 gubernatorial race, but it's not Sen. Joe Manchin. The Neil Armstrong of the Democratic primary is state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (a former Senate president), who created an exploratory committee on Thursday.
Kessler ran for governor in the crowded 2011 special election primary, where he finished fifth. The far better-known Manchin has said in the past that he'll announce his 2016 plans "by this summer, end of the spring", though he appears to be preparing to return to the governor's mansion. In a Kessler versus Manchin primary, Kessler, who's labor-friendly and recently critiqued termed-out Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for "not exhibit[ing] bold leadership," would probably run to Manchin's left. It is quite possible though that Kessler is only prepping in case Manchin doesn't run, and would drop out rather than face him.
The Charleston Daily Mail's article does some further great mentioning, posing U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin (the cousin of appointed ex-Sen. Carte Goodwin) as another potential Democratic candidate. Goodwin hasn't said anything about his plans, which isn't a surprise given his current job. The Charleston Gazette also informs us that Secretary of State and 2014 Democratic Senate nominee Natalie Tennant has filed to run for re-election, despite some speculation that she might seek the governorship again (she also ran in the 2011 special). Of course, Tennant still has plenty of time to change her mind, especially if Manchin doesn't go for it.
The Daily Mail also tells us that Republican state Senate President Bill Cole has been talking about running for governor as recently as the end of the legislative session a few days ago. Fellow Republicans Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. David McKinley (who lost a 1996 primary for this seat) have also been making noises about a gubernatorial bid.
• MI-01: Once upon a time, Dan Benishek was a conservative outsider who could effortlessly promise to only serve three terms in the House if he ever got elected. But now that Rep. Benishek has reached that magical term number three, he's realizing that he might not want to leave so soon. Benishek has been very quiet about his 2016 plans, perhaps hoping that no one would remember his original pledge. But his office finally addressed the matter... only to offer a vague "[a]ny decision regarding his political future will be made in due time."
Democrats are planning to contest this northern Michigan seat no matter what Benishek does. 2012 nominee Jerry Cannon recently expressed interest in trying again, and state Rep. Scott Dianda is reportedly mulling a run. State party chair Lon Johnson has ruled out campaigning for this seat himself, though he recently said that he hopes Cannon tries again.
• NV-04: Now that former Rep. Stephen Horsford has made it clear that he won't be trying to regain his old seat, a number of other Las Vegas area Democrats are scouting out this contest. Former Assemblywoman and 2014 lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores quickly expressed interest, but she should expect some primary competition. Roll Call reports that state Sen. Ruben Kihuen says he'll be "discussing" the race with family members and the DCCC. Kihuen pulled the plug on his 2012 campaign for the nearby 1st District after he decided he wouldn't be beating Dina Titus, but Kihuen's ties to Harry Reid could give him an edge here.
Two other Democrats are also talking about running. State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson says he's "considering," but won't make a decision until the legislative session ends on June 1. His colleague Pat Spearman also promised to "pray about this and give it thoughtful consideration." Obama won this suburban seat 54-44, and the DCCC is expected to make unseating freshman Republican Cresent Hardy a top priority.
• Philadelphia Mayor: Former Councilor Jim Kenney is considered labor's candidate in the Democratic primary field, and he received another key union endorsement on Thursday. He got the backing of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which represents police and corrections officer within the city of Philadelphia.
• Nashville Mayor: Real estate titan Bill Freeman, who is also a former state Democratic Party treasurer, is the latest contender to go on the air ahead of the Aug. 6 non-partisan primary. Freeman's minute-long ad stars the candidate highlighting his local roots and business background. The spot is currently running for only $40,000, but Freeman is capable of self-funding a whole lot more.
• President-by-LD: The 2010 Republican landslide could not have come at a worse time for Team Blue: With new Republican state governments in place, the GOP had a free hand to draw the new congressional and state legislative maps to protect and expand their majorities. In a new piece, we utilize our data calculating the results of the 2012 presidential election according to every congressional and legislative district in the nation to take a look at how gerrymandered each state is.
The strongest Republican map is in the Louisiana state House, where the median seat voted for Romney 68-31, about 20 points to the right of the state. The Democrats' best map is for the Colorado state House, where the median seat is about 8 points to the left of the state. Click through for more.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and Taniel.