Retiring Indiana GOP Sen. Dan Coats
• IN-Sen: In an unsurprising move, Republican Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana announced on Tuesday that he'd wind down his second tour of duty in the Senate after just a single term, citing his age. Coats, a creature of the establishment who had previously served from 1989 to 1999 (taking Dan Quayle's seat!), had to be lured out of a cushy retirement as a lobbyist to give the GOP a top-tier candidate to take on Sen. Evan Bayh in 2010. Coats relented, and to everyone's great surprise, Bayh (who in fact had succeeded Coats) announced his stunning retirement just days later.
Now the two may swap spots yet again. Just last week, Bayh refused to rule out a comeback bid, and he'd make a potent candidate if he decided to get back in the game. He's still sitting on a $10 million war chest, has universal name recognition thanks to his service both in the Senate and as governor, and possesses a good chunk of crossover appeal—something any Democrat needs to get elected statewide in Indiana.
Of course, Bayh is no favorite of progressives, and many of his fellow Indiana Democrats were cheesed off at his unexpected departure in 2010, a move that allowed his seat to fall into Republican hands. On the flipside, a Bayh return would instantly put this contest in play, and that would heal a lot of wounds. It would also delight the DSCC, which is running a spread offense as it seeks the four pickups (or five, depending on the presidential outcome) Democrats need to retake the Senate.
Bayh himself is continuing to be as evasive as ever about his plans. On Tuesday, Bayh's longtime confidant Dan Parker said that Bayh "is not a candidate for United States Senate in 2016." But when Parker was asked if Bayh would run later, he only repeated that the former senator "is not a candidate." Helpful, isn't he?
There is no shortage of other contenders on either side who could end up running here. Head below the fold for more.
If Bayh sorts out his temporal chronometer and decides not to run, Team Blue has a few other options. Former Rep. Baron Hill has been flirting with a gubernatorial bid against Republican Mike Pence, but Politico's Kyle Cheney quotes him saying that he's "interested in it," but needs to talk to his allies first. A party strategist also tells The Hill that former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson is taking a look at running. Peterson was last seen losing his 2007 re-election campaign in a complete shocker, so Democrats may prefer someone else.
Some potential candidates getting the Great Mentioner treatment include former Rep. and 2010 nominee Brad Ellsworth, state Rep. Christina Hale, Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. Last month, McDermott and Ritz did not rule out gubernatorial bids, though neither sounded incredibly enthusiastic. However, Rep. Andre Carson is "not considering" a run, but he was never a likely option.
Meanwhile, Republicans are likely to play host to an intense, and very possibly bitter, primary of their own. It didn't take long for several potential candidates made their interest (or lack of it) clear on the GOP side. Coats himself touted his chief of staff Eric Holcomb, and Holcomb announced he would take a leave of absence from the senator's office to consider a campaign. CNN's Eric McPike reports that Holcomb has already decided to run with Coats' support, but he hasn't announced anything yet.
While Holcomb starts out with almost no name recognition, he's very well-connected in GOP politics. The Hill's Cameron Joseph tells us that Holcomb has been building alliances across the state in preparation for Coats' departure, and the former state party chair is also close with influential former Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Holcomb shouldn't expect a clear primary field if he does jump in. Rep. Marlin Stutzman sought this seat in 2010 and he confirmed that he "will be taking a serious look at running again". Stutzman would try and appeal to more tea party-scented groups, though if his failed 2014 bid for House majority whip is any indication, he can't count on much support from his congressional colleagues.
Conditions may be just right for Stutzman to sneak through this time though. When Coats last returned to the playing field in 2010, he only won the GOP primary with an underwhelming 39 percent of the vote as Stutzman and another candidate split the anti-establishment vote. If this time more insider-flavored candidates are running, the math may be on the congressman's side. Democrats certainly wouldn't be complaining if Stutzman took the nomination this time. While Bayh is capable of beating any Republican, someone like Stutzman would give another Democratic nominee an opening where otherwise they likely would not have one.
And sure enough, some of Stutzman's fellow Hoosier House members are sniffing out this seat as well. Not a single one was elected before 2010, so none of this very junior crop of congresscritters is going to intimidate the rest. Roll Call's Emily Cahn quotes a source close to Jackie Walorski who says that the congresswoman is "strongly considering jumping in," though Walorski hasn't said anything on the record yet. During her time in the state legislature, Walorski had a reputation as an ultra conservative, but she's emerged as a pretty anonymous member of the House rank and file, with a voting record that's pretty close to the midpoint of the GOP caucus. If she runs, it's anyone's guess if we'll see the return of the Wacky Jackie of the past, or a continuation of this new model.
There are plenty of other Republicans worth keeping an eye on. Before Coats' retirement, state House Speaker Brian Bosma acknowledged his interest in this seat. Rep. Todd Young's office also didn't rule out a bid, though the congressman doesn't come across as incredibly excited. State Republicans also tell The Hill that Reps. Susan Brooks and Todd Rokita are considering.
With Pence looking very likely to seek a second term as governor rather than campaign for the White House, other ambitious Republicans might decide to run to succeed Coats rather than try and wait Pence out, though they could also challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in 2018. State Sen. Jim Banks is popular with tea party groups, though he has yet to publicly express interest (and Stutzman would certainly prefer that he didn't). Other Republicans worth keeping an eye on include outgoing Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Attorney General Greg Zoeller. However, Reps. Larry Bucshon and Luke Messer have said no.
Indiana remains a very red state, and if Bayh remains on the sidelines, Republicans will be decisively favored. But factor in a presidential year (remember, Barack Obama actually carried the Hoosier State in 2008) and the possibility of a draining GOP nomination battle and who knows what might happen? As always, we'll be watching all developments closely at Daily Kos Elections.
• FL-Sen: With Rep. Patrick Murphy's campaign for Senate now formally underway, the Democratic establishment is taking some initial steps to rally behind him. The DSCC and Harry Reid have already made their sub rosa support clear; now Florida's senior senator, Bill Nelson, is also jumping in with praise. Nelson called the young congressman "a very attractive candidate who can win statewide," though he hastened to add that he wasn't making an official endorsement. When asked about Rep. Alan Grayson, another potential candidate, Nelson said he simply hadn't heard from him.
But boy have we. In a new interview with the National Journal, Grayson showcased his singular ability to be as grating as possible toward the rest of his party:
"Patrick's entry into the race doesn't really factor into mine at all," Grayson told National Journal on Friday. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, he said, "hasn't endorsed anybody, Harry Reid hasn't endorsed anybody, and it's not terribly relevant if [they] did, because while we'd all like to have the support of the party, it's the voters who decide these things, not the party. ... This race isn't about who Harry Reid wants to be the next senator from Florida." [...]
In this race, he suggested, "the winning strategy in Florida is not for us to run people who are somewhat embarrassed to be Democrats and constantly vote for the other side." [...]
For his part, Grayson called the rumors of widespread Murphy support "annoying."
"Why do you think Patrick would even stay in the race? Based on the way the major Florida groups line up, don't you think that even Patrick would reach the obvious conclusion?" Grayson said. "If it's true that the party doesn't want a contested primary, what makes you think I'd be the one who drops out?"
Classic loserspeak ("we won't let D.C. decide ..."), purity trolling, and then some weird statements that contradicted the initial burst of loserspeak. (If the party's actions don't matter because voters will decide the nomination, then why does it matter who gets the support of "major Florida groups"—which would include the Democratic Party? Remember, Grayson was supposed to be an accomplished trial lawyer.)
But if you make it all the way down to the final paragraph of the piece, you'll find out that—surprise!—this is really all about Alan Grayson:
As for what could make his House gig a little sweeter: "I'd love to have a bigger role in policy-making in the House," Grayson said. Conveniently, the role he has in mind, chairing the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, is one that will likely be vacant soon due to Rep. Donna Edwards's Senate bid. "Given what I already do, which is to basically put my fingerprints on dozens of bills as they pass through the House ... it would be my dream job to be able to have that kind of role in policy-making for the party, so that would certainly make a difference for me."
Grayson couldn't be more blatant if he'd opined, "That's a nice little Senate candidate you've got there—be a shame if something happened to him." Of course, while Jon Tester and the DSCC would love it if Nancy Pelosi would solve their Grayson problem for them, Pelosi probably doesn't want to let Grayson anywhere near the controls. We'll just have to see how this one resolves itself.
One other loose end has wrapped itself up, though. In a discordant move just before Murphy's announcement, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz name-checked a trio of mayors she thought would also make excellent Senate candidates and promised a "robust" primary. However, one of those three, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, immediately declared that he has "zero" interest in a Senate bid and wants to stay in his current post. The other two, Orlando's Buddy Dyer and Jacksonville's Alvin Brown, haven't said anything yet. Given that Brown is currently locked in a tough re-election campaign, we probably won't here much from him for a while, if ever.
• NH-Sen: Gravis Marketing (R): Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R): 47, Maggie Hassan (D): 45.
• ME-Gov: Over the last week or so, beloved horror writer and lifelong Mainer Stephen King has been whaling on GOP Gov. Paul LePage over the Republican's absolutely bogus claim that King had fled the state for more favorable income tax rates in Florida. King called bullshit, and LePage retracted his statement, but he still hasn't offered an apology, something the much more popular King has been calling for. (And yes, we have polling: In mid-2013, PPP found King with a 45-23 favorability score at the same time LePage was earning a painful 39-56 job approval rating.)
Prompted by the ongoing dustup, a couple of Democratic office-holders tried to recruit King to run for governor in 2018 (when LePage will be term-limited). King has long been an advocate for liberal causes, but sadly, he said no, and we can be sure he means it, since he went full-bore Sherman in disavowing his interest. That means another Democrat will have to step up, but in the meantime, King can keep dishing out the Carrie treatment for LePage.
• MO-Gov: The Republican field is slowly beginning to take shape following the suicide of state Auditor and gubernatorial contender Tom Schweich. Former state House Speaker and 2004 secretary of state nominee Catherine Hanaway currently only faces little-known former state Rep. Randy Asbury, but that's likely to change very soon, and here's why. State party chair Chairman John Hancock, one of Hanaway's early supporters, has been accused of starting an anti-Semitic whisper campaign that may have played a role in Schweich's death. And Hanaway's campaign consultant and treasurer have also been linked to Citizens for Fairness, a group that ran an attack ad against Schweich.
Schweich's friends are consequently furious with Hanaway. A few weeks ago, rumors began to surface that state Sen. Mike Parson would run for governor, and he recently confirmed that he's interested. Parson isn't well-known statewide, but he starts out with about $500,000 on hand. Of all the potential candidates, he also sounds like he was the closest to Schweich.
Plenty of other Republicans are looking at this contest, too. Retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens formed an exploratory committee for an unstated statewide office last month, and he recently said that he's considering a bid. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Kevin McDermott, Greitens has raised $300,000 since the end of February. Greitens doesn't start out with any name recognition among primary voters, but he has useful political connections and is very good at attracting media attention.
Businessman and 2012 Senate candidate John Brunner has also been flirting with a run for a while, and he'd have no trouble self-funding another campaign. McDermott also tells us that state Sen. Mike Kehoe is considering, though he has yet to say anything on the record. Kehoe hails from central Missouri, and he will likely make infrastructure a key campaign issue.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder also hasn't ruled out another run for this seat, though he'd need to pull the plug on his re-election campaign if he tried for a promotion. One name we can cross off, though, is former Sen. Jim Talent, who ruled it out after showing very little interest in returning to elected office. The eventual Republican nominee is likely to face Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, who has no notable primary challengers on the horizon.
• OR-Gov: While John Kitzhaber has now departed from the political scene for good, the saga of his resignation earlier this year remains as bizarre as ever. If you're still wondering what on earth happened, the Oregonian's Jeff Manning goes behind the scenes with a detailed look at the former governor's last days in office. A very gripping and at times disturbing read.
• MD-08: On Monday, state Sen. Jamie Raskin announced that he would run to succeed Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen in this safely blue seat. Raskin has a reputation as a solid liberal, which could definitely help him here. So far, Del. and former Majority Leader Kumar Barve is the only other contender, but there are plenty of other ambitious Democrats who could seek out this suburban D.C. seat. However, state Sen. Richard Madaleno and Montgomery County Councilor Nancy Navarro will not be among them.
• MI-01: So much for that term limits pledge: GOP Rep. Dan Benishek, who promised to serve just three terms before he was elected to Congress in 2010, has decided he likes his current gig too much to forego a fourth. Benishek has faced tough elections every cycle he's run, and 2016 likely won't be any different. While Benishek's next opponent probably won't get much mileage out of the term limits business (it's been a long time since the issue had much resonance), Benishek will have to deal with the same kind of presidential-year turnout that held him to a narrow 1-point escape in 2012.
• VA State Senate: The twisted tale of Joe Morrissey continues. As Carolyn Fiddler detailed in an eye-popping article, the Democratic politician has been in trouble with the law ever since he went to prison in 1991 for writing a judge a threatening letter, and he's only managed to get worse since then. But it was only last year that Morrissey resigned from the state House of Delegates after pleading guilty to having sex with an underage girl. Morrissey went to prison but was allowed to leave for up to 12 hours a day to work as a lawyer or run of office... which is exactly what he did. Morrissey decided to seek his old seat in a January special election as an independent and made national news after he won. Morrissey will be leaving the state House again, but not in a way that his detractors want.
On Saturday, Morrissey announced that he would challenge state Sen. Rosalyn Dance in the Democratic primary in June. Under any other circumstances, it would be great to see Dance attract a notable primary challenger in this safely blue Richmond-area seat: Back in 2013, she was one of two Democrats who threatened to help the GOP pass a redistricting bill that would have cost Democrats any chance at holding the majority anytime soon. But Joe Morrissey wouldn't be Joe Morrissey if he didn't find fresh ways to mess with Old Dominion Democrats. On Tuesday, Blue Virginia posted audio of Morrissey saying that he's willing to caucus with the GOP. The GOP holds a 21-19 majority ahead of this November's elections, and it would be an utter nightmare if Morrissey got to decide control of the chamber.
There is another notable Democrat running in this Senate seat. Joseph Preston won Dance's old state House seat in a special election in January, and he's already aiming for a promotion. Dance helped cost Preston a judgeship, setting off a long feud between the two, though Preston says he's running because of her record than the snub. Preston's motivates may not be completely altruistic, but he'd need to try incredibly hard not to be the best candidate in this field.
• Demographics: The lazy man's approach to talking about politics is to assume that if you implement x policy and then y outcome happens, there's a clear causal relationship. So it goes with the low-tax, low-minimum wage regimes in the Southern states, which also happen to have seen much of the nation's population growth in recent decades, as any Republican will no doubt remind you. Paul Krugman puts that to the test with a look at the history of the air conditioner, which over the decades helped turn southern states that are borderline uninhabitable in the summer, but more pleasant than the Northeast or Midwest the rest of the year, into livable destinations ... and may well be the intervening variable that best explains growth in the sunbelt.
• Demographics: The Brookings Institution is out with an interesting new report on jobs and commuting. There's a complicated problem here: Jobs are increasingly dispersed around a metropolitan area, and further away from where people live (especially as poverty, also, gets more dispersed into the suburbs). But with a poorly funded public transit and highway infrastructure, it gets harder and harder for poorer people to get where they need to be, in order to have a job. They find that the number of jobs within reasonable commuting distance of the residents of major metropolitan areas fell by 7 percent between 2000 and 2012 ... and that's not entirely also because of the jobs lost in the recession, but also because of increased dispersion of both jobs and job-seekers.
The study is greatly enhanced with nice interactive graphics. You can switch back and forth, on maps of dozens of different metro areas at the census tract level, between seeing where the jobs have been recently created, and where the people actually are. It's actually an interesting math problem: if you look at the latter set of maps, there's a critical mass of both jobs and residents in the central part of cities. But if you look at the former set of maps, the job creation is happening disproportionately on the exurban/edge city periphery, distant not only from the city center but also distant from the people who live in the suburbs on the other side of the metropolitan area.
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.