Patrick Murphy (center)
• FL-Sen: As expected, Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy formally kicked off his bid for Senate on Monday, giving establishment Democrats their top choice for GOP Sen. Marco Rubio's seat next year and boosting the party's effort to take back Congress's upper chamber. Murphy is young—just 31—but has twice won a very difficult, right-leaning district in southern Florida's Treasure Coast, starting with a memorable upset over Republican Allen West in 2012. And last year, despite the massive red wave, he crushed a lackluster opponent by 20 points.
Murphy's an incredibly hard worker and exceptional fundraiser, plus he's also very well-connected (his father is a wealthy real estate developer). And the same centrist record he compiled that helped him hold down his House seat should, the prevailing school of thought goes, help him statewide in Florida, a very evenly divided swing state. However, the same sort of thinking says that Murphy's profile could simultaneously hurt him in a Democratic primary, especially if an outspoken liberal like Orlando-area Rep. Alan Grayson gets in as well.
But for all of Murphy's votes that might rankle progressives (like supporting the Keystone pipeline or weakening Wall Street reforms), he's no conservative Blue Dog. Head below the fold to learn why the conventional wisdom, as it so often is, might once again be wrong.
Indeed, Murphy answered the Daily Kos questionnaire perfectly in his first run for Congress, and in his launch announcement, he focused on themes solidly within the progressive mainstream:
I'm a consensus-builder who is working to boost the economy by cutting waste in government, raise the minimum wage, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and protect the Everglades.
Grayson, meanwhile, has often allowed his mouth to be his own worst enemy, and Florida Democrats may not cotton to his style. Grayson is also in the middle of a very ugly divorce lawsuit in which he's alleging his estranged wife committed bigamy, and—surely there's no connection here, right?—he recently declared only a "fool"
would enter the Senate race so early. That kind of advice might have suited 19th century politics, but the demands of modern campaigns are such that Murphy is smart to get in early.
Indeed, Murphy's already secured some key support. Harry Reid had previously signaled his backing, and the DSCC arranged a "meet-and-greet" for Murphy with power players in D.C. not long ago, which is not the kind of thing they do for just anyone. And shortly after his announcement, Murphy received an endorsement from Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents a nearby district and had been a possible (if unlikely) Senate candidate himself.
Stunningly, though, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who recently had said no to a bid herself, downplayed Murphy's entry and spoke of the "many leaders who could step forward" to run as well, mentioning three mayors by name. It's a pretty amazing that the titular head of the Democratic Party would not rally behind a top-tier recruit for a key Senate seat (or at least just offer some anodyne remarks), but the same kind of skills that have helped her alienate so many people are probably what kept Wasserman Schultz from gathering support for a Senate run of her own.
But as Murphy builds up a head of steam, Wasserman Schultz and Grayson notwithstanding, one huge question remains: Will Rubio seek re-election, or will he give up his post after just one term and throw it all away on a White House bid? All signs point to the latter, but he scarcely registers in national polls and may not want to terminate his political career so quickly. Then again, with Murphy now running, Rubio would likely face a very stiff campaign, so maybe a presidential bid sounds more fun.
Who knows when Rubio will make up his mind, though: In November, he said he'd decide "in the coming weeks." That was, well, more than a few weeks ago. He's also promised that he won't try to run for both offices at once, though again, who knows if he'll stick with that pledge, either.
If Rubio does bail, a whole host of major Republicans are considering the contest, including state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, state Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, as well as a number of congressmen and other elected officials. But they all have to wait on Rubio, and that's allowed Murphy to get the jump on the entire GOP pack.
But even with this first-mover advantage, he'll have a very difficult race ahead. Only two Democrats have won statewide in Florida since 2006, Barack Obama (2008 and 2012) and Sen. Bill Nelson (also 2012). That's actually a positive sign for Murphy, though, since Democrats are much more competitive in the Sunshine State (as they are just about everywhere else) during presidential election years. If Murphy can survive or avoid a primary, he'll be a force to contend with, and he's just expanded the Senate map in a very important way for Team Blue.
• AZ-Sen, 02, 09: We can officially strike one name off the list of possible intra-party challengers to Sen. John McCain: Rep. Paul Gosar, who represents Arizona's conservative 4th District, says he is "absolutely" running for re-election. (There'd also apparently been a little retirement speculation, since he just had hip surgery.) Democrats are still hoping for some GOP cat fud, though, and state Sen. Kelli Ward, who infamously hosted a public hearing on chemtrails last year, says she continues to consider a primary bid.
However, Democrats still lack a candidate of their own. One possibility is 2014 gubernatorial nominee Fred DuVal, who also has reportedly been recruited for a run in the 2nd District, a seat Republican Martha McSally narrowly picked up last year. DuVal, though, says he's only interested in statewide office, so perhaps a Senate run is in the offing for him.
But Democrats still have several alternatives who might take on McSally. State Rep. Bruce Wheeler publicly confirmed he's looking at a run and says he'll decide in May. Other names include businesswoman Nan Walden (who declined a bid in the special election to succeed Gabby Giffords), former state Rep. Matt Heinz (who got crushed by Rep. Ron Barber, the guy McSally unseated, in the 2012 primary), state Rep. Randy Friese, and state Sen. Steve Farley.
It may be some time before we get real clarity on the House picture in Arizona, though. The Supreme Court will probably rule on a challenge to the state's redistricting commission in May or June, and the outcome could wreak havoc on the current map. That's why Republicans like former state House Speaker Andy Tobin, who ran in the 1st District last year, and former GoDaddy counsel Christine Jones, an also-ran for the 2014 GOP gubernatorial nomination, have expressed interest in running for Congress but haven't said where. When asked if she was looking at a bid in the 9th District or somewhere else, Jones responded that she was considering running in "all of them."
• CO-06: Democrat Andrew Romanoff, who lost an extraordinarily expensive and highly touted race for the House last year, will presumably not seek a rematch against GOP Rep. Mike Coffman next year. Romanoff, a former state House speaker whom the DCCC had been trying to recruit for another go-round, just accepted a job as CEO of a non-profit called Mental Health Colorado. (Nice to see an ex-pol working on behalf of the good guys instead of becoming a lobbyist for once.) But at least one other Democrat is already looking at the race, ex-state Rep. Edward Casso.
• FL-18: Even before Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy formally kicked off his campaign for Senate, the jockeying to succeed him had already begun. Indeed, the Great Mentioner worked overtime last week churning out a long list of names on the GOP side (which has a much deeper bench here), as well as a few Democratic possibilities. But the GM's labors are never done, so here are a couple of other options, courtesy Roll Call.
For the Democrats, one further alternative is state Senate Minority Whip Joseph Abruzzo, though he sounds more intrigued by the prospect of succeeding Rep. Ted Deutch one day. (That day won't be soon, though, since Deutch just endorsed Murphy's Senate bid.) And for Republicans, Roll Call names Reed Hartman, who is described with the lengthy title of "past president of the Florida Farm Bureau's State Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Group."
So far, a bunch of candidates have expressed varying degrees of interest, but no one has actually jumped in. Expect that to change soon.
• IL-18: Ex-Rep. Bobby Schilling's comeback bid ended in a 10-point loss last year despite the GOP wave, as Illinois' 17th District proved too blue, and Rep. Cheri Bustos—the woman who unseated him in 2012—proved too strong a campaigner to overcome. But now Nathan Gonzales reports that Schilling is hoping for a second act in the neighboring 18th District, which is soon to be vacated by Aaron Schock and is a whole lot redder (Mitt Romney carried it 61-37).
Schilling hasn't commented publicly, and he only represented 16 percent of the new 18th before it was redistricted following the 2010 Census—and then only for a single term. What's more, GOP power brokers, including newly elected Gov. Bruce Rauner, are doing all they can to clear the field for state Sen. Darin LaHood, son of ex-Rep. Ray LaHood (Shock's predecessor, who represented almost half of the current district for many years).
But as Gonzales notes, LaHood does not have the race locked up, and conservatives will be looking for a purer alternative. Schilling might not fit the bill exactly, but tea partiers may find him more palatable than the son of a former Obama cabinet official.
• MI-07: A surprising poll from Inside Michigan Politics, conducted by the little-known firm Revsix, finds Democratic state Rep. Gretchen Driskell leading GOP Rep. Tim Walberg 42-37. Driskell is one of the DCCC's top recruits so far this cycle, but it's strange to see an incumbent polling so poorly this far out from an election, especially a guy who won by a dozen points last time out.
Of course, that was 2014, and Walberg's far-right track record make him vulnerable regardless—though apparently, not quite as vulnerable to last year's opponent, former state Rep. Pam Byrnes, who is reportedly considering a rematch. Walberg beats Byrnes 43-38, though again, those are hardly great numbers for a sitting member of the House. But at this early date, long before a single ad has aired, the fundamentals matter much more than a single poll. (Hat-tip: ezioaltair12)
• Chicago Mayor: A couple of quick polls taken right after the Chicago mayoral primary showed challenger Chuy Garcia just a few points behind incumbent (and fellow Democrat) Rahm Emanuel, who was stuck in the mid-40s—exactly where he was on election night. But Garcia's allies didn't take the opportunity to pounce when excitement was at its highest, while Rahm's supporters have kept new attack ads spilling forth from their bottomless coffers.
The results have been disappointing for Chuy. The latest survey from Ogden & Fry finds Rahm ahead 49-32, up considerably from his 47-37 advantage a week earlier. That's the fourth straight poll to give Emanuel a double-digit lead, and all have shown him at or close to 50. The run-off is only two weeks away (April 7), and we haven't seen any contradictory data, so there's not much time for Garcia.
• Special Elections: Tuesday brings us a genuinely competitive D-versus-R race in the Keystone State, courtesy Johnny Longtorso:
Pennsylvania HD-170: This is the seat vacated by Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle, located in northeast Philadelphia. The candidates are Democrat Sarah Del Ricci, founder of the Parkwood Therapeutic Riding Center, and Republican Martina White, a financial adviser. The district went 57-42 for Barack Obama in 2012 but was held by a Republican prior to Boyle, and Republicans are targeting this seat. In addition, a number of unions have backed White.
There's a real chance this seat could revert to the GOP, that fact makes this race yet another good (by which we mean disturbing) example of the falloff we so often see in Democratic turnout during oddly timed elections. Not helping matters is an apparent split on the Democratic side that has led to some labor groups supporting the Republican. If they lose Tuesday night, Democrats would have a strong shot at re-taking HD-170 next year, but this isn't the way you want to run a railroad.
• Census: It may seem early for the Census Bureau to be trying out a full dress rehearsal for the 2020 census, but they've got some interesting new technology to work out. The next nationwide survey will be the first one that's conducted primarily online; paper will be used only for those who can't or won't use an online delivery method. With that in mind, the bureau is doing a dry run now in the Savannah, Georgia area for the next two months, with a particular emphasis on how to find and reach traditionally hard-to-count populations, especially, in this case, elderly residents who may not be computer or cellphone users.
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.