Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis (right) with Louisiana Sen. David Vitter
• FL-Sen: No Republicans have entered the race to succeed presidential candidate Marco Rubio yet, but several are positioning themselves for the long contest. Rep. Ron DeSantis sounds like he's the most eager to jump in, and he said on Tuesday that he'll make a decision over the next few weeks. But several major conservative groups are making it known early that the tea party friendly DeSantis is their man. The Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and the Tea Party Express have all issued glowing statements about DeSantis' prospective campaign, and their support could make a real difference in what will be an expensive primary.
Several other Republicans are taking steps towards running as well. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has said little publicly other than offering May 1 as the earliest date he'll decide, but behind-the-scenes it sounds like he's ready to go. His allies tell the National Journal that he's "95 percent there," and Gov. Rick Scott is likely to support him. Rubio, an old friend of Lopez-Cantera, is also expected to give him at least some quiet support, though it's possible he'll outright endorse him.
Rep. David Jolly's name recently emerged as a prospective candidate, and he confirmed his interest on Tuesday. Jolly says he won't decide until after his wedding around June or July. Jolly won a tough 2014 special election, and he'll start with good name recognition in the swingy Tampa Bay area. However, as one of the few congressional Republicans to support same-sex marriage, Jolly might have a problem winning over conservative primary voters. The NRCC would also prefer not to defend an open Obama 50-49 seat, and he'll likely be pressured to stay in the House.
Plenty of other Republicans covert Rubio's Senate seat. Wealthy Rep. Tom Rooney is set to meet with the NRSC about a possible bid on Thursday, while Rep. Vern Buchanan, former Sen. George LeMieux, and state Senate President Don Gaetz have all expressed interest. Former state House Speaker Will Weatherford hasn't ruled anything out either, though he doesn't sound excited about it. But Weatherford's leadership in the legislature won him plaudits among Republican establishment types, and he'll definitely be encouraged to try. Rep. Dennis Ross is also reportedly interested, though Ross has yet to say anything. Whoever eventually emerges from the GOP primary is expected to take on Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, who has a reputation as a tough campaigner, though Rep. Alan Grayson is also talking about jumping in.
: Johnny Isakson
(R-inc): $1.6 million raised, $3.75 million cash-on-hand
• IN-Sen: Todd Young (R): $410,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand (Young is not a declared candidate)
• IL-12: Mike Bost (R-inc): $407,000 raised, $382,000 cash-on-hand
• CO-Sen: Quinnipiac continues their tour of next year's competitive Senate races with a stop in the Centennial State. But while their results aren't as strange as last week's offerings in Ohio and Pennsylvania, they definitely are a head-scratcher.
Quinnipiac finds Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet trailing Republican Rep. Mike Coffman 43-40 in a hypothetical matchup. Weirdly, Bennet posts a strong 46-29 approval rating, and a 40-27 favorable score, not the type of numbers you'd expect to see for an incumbent trailing in a swing state. Coffman has a 30-23 favorable rating, which is good but doesn't exactly make him Mr. Popular. This isn't a new issue with Quinnipiac either. For instance, in February of last year, they found Ohio's Republican Gov. John Kasich with a 51-36 approval rating, but only gave him a 43-38 edge over Democrat Ed FitzGerald. A few months later, Quinnipiac found Kasich breaking the race open, and they accurately chronicled FitzGerald's implosion, but their February numbers are still hard to account for.
Maybe Coffman is functioning as a generic Republican for voters who may like Bennet but are nevertheless angry with national Democrats. However, the incumbent leads newly elected Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (the congressman's wife) 44-36, and with 12-13 statewide favorables, she's really generic. So it's unclear why Mike is able to scoop up so many voters who say they like Bennet (or at least don't dislike him) while Cynthia can't.
Rep. Coffman is mulling a Senate bid, but he sounds much more likely to run for re-election in his swingy House seat. Attorney General Coffman hasn't ruled anything out, but she doesn't seem particularly excited about the idea either. Several other Republicans are looking at this seat, though only unheralded El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn is currently in. While Bennet has proven himself to be a tough campaigner and he'll have presidential year turnout on his side, Mark Udall's defeat last year is a grim reminder that he can't take anything for granted.
With Quinnipiac producing so many attention-grabbing polls, we decided to take a look at their recent record, accounting for their final poll of each race conducted from Oct. 1 on. Let's start with 2012:
• CO POTUS: Quinnipiac: Romney (R) 48-47; actual: Obama (D) 51-46; error: +6 R
• CT POTUS: Quinnipiac: Obama (D) 55-41; actual: Obama (D) 58-41; error +3 R
• CT-Sen: Quinnipiac: Murphy (D) 49-43; actual: Murphy (D) 55-43; error: error +6 R
• FL POTUS: Quinnipiac: Obama (D) 48-47; actual: Obama (D) 50-49; error +0
• FL-Sen: Quinnipiac: Nelson (D) 52-39; actual: Nelson (D): 55-42; error +0
• NJ POTUS: Quinnipiac: Obama (D) 51-43; actual: Obama (D) 58-41; error +9 R
• NJ-Sen: Quinnipiac: Menendez (D) 55-37; actual: Menendez (D) 59-39; error +2 R
• OH POTUS: Quinnipiac: Obama (D) 50-45; actual: Obama (D) 51-48; error +2 D
• OH-Sen: Quinnipiac: Brown (D) 51-42; actual: Brown (D) 51-45; error +3 D
• PA POTUS: Quinnipiac: Obama (D) 50-46; actual: Obama (D) 52-47; error +1 R
• PA-Sen: Quinnipiac: Casey (D) 48-45; actual: Casey (D) 54-45; error +6 R
• VA POTUS: Quinnipiac: Obama (D) 49-47; actual: Obama (D) 51-47; error +2 R
• VA-Sen: Quinnipiac: Kaine (D) 50-46; actual: Kaine (D) 53-47; error +2 R
• WI POTUS: Quinnipiac: Obama (D) 50-47; actual: Obama (D): 53-46; error +4 R
• WI-Sen: Quinnipiac: Baldwin (D) 48-46; actual: Baldwin (D) 51-46; error +3 R
While Quinnipiac had a few misses (though their New Jersey error may have been the result of Obama receiving a boost for his handling of Hurricane Sandy), overall they were on-target, and they nailed both high-profile contests in hard-to-poll Florida. Quinnipiac overestimated the Republicans more often than the Democrats and usually by larger margins: It's also worth noting that they lowballed Obama by 6 in Colorado less than a month before Election Day.
Quinnipiac also took a look at 2013's contests:
• NJ-Sen: Quinnipiac: Booker (D) 54-40; actual: Booker (D) 55-44; error +3 D
• NJ-Gov: Quinnipiac: Christie (R) 61-33; actual: Christie (R) 60-38; error +0
• VA-Gov: Quinnipiac: McAuliffe (D) 46-40; actual: McAuliffe (D): 48-45; error +3 D
Overall, very reasonable. While they overestimated McAuliffe's margin, so did almost everyone, and Quinnipiac was closer than most of their competitors
. Finally, here is 2014:
• CO-Gov: Quinnipiac: Beauprez (R) 45-43; actual: Hickenlooper (D) 49-46; error +5 R
• CO-Sen: Quinnipiac: Gardner (R) 45-43; actual: Gardner (R) 48-46; error +0
• CT-Gov: Quinnipiac: Malloy (D) 43-42; actual: Malloy (D) 51-48; error +2 R
• FL-Gov: Quinnipiac: Crist (D) 42-41; actual: Scott (R) 48-47; error +2 D
• IA-Sen: Quinnipiac: Tie 47-47; actual: Ernst (R) 52-44; error +8 D
• IA-Gov: Quinnipiac: Branstad (R) 52-41; actual: Branstad (R) 59-37; error +11 D
• NJ-Sen: Quinnipiac: Booker (D) 51-40; actual: Booker (D) 56-42; error +3 R
• NY-Gov: Quinnipiac: Cuomo (D) 51-31; actual: Cuomo (D) 54-40; error +6 D
• OH-Gov: Quinnipiac: Kasich (R) 57-35; actual: Kasich (R) 64-33; error +9 D
• PA-Gov: Quinnipiac: Wolf (D) 55-38; actual: Wolf (D) 55-45; error +7 D
Like most pollsters last year, Quinnipiac overestimated Democrats, sometimes by quite a bit. Strangely, they were too pessimistic
to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in Colorado, even as they were nailing Gardner's winning margin. But Quinnipiac showed some strange swings over the cycle: At one point they found Hickenlooper trailing by 10
, far larger than what anyone else ever found
The Colorado Senate race hasn't received much polling love, so we don't have much of an idea how on-target their new survey is or isn't. But as we said in response to their surveys from last week, you never want to rely on a single poll to inform your opinion of a race. We'll be seeing more Colorado polling as this cycle progresses, and we'll get a better idea soon on Bennet's standing.
• NC-Sen: I sense a great disturbance in the Force—as if millions of DSCC staffers cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who had appeared to be national Democrats' plan B in North Carolina's Senate race next year, just announced that she's pulled out of the attack and will seek re-election instead. Plan A—ex-Sen. Kay Hagan—is still available, but not only has she turned off her targeting computer, her favorability numbers are stuck deep down in the exhaust port, so perhaps she's not the gold leader for this trench run.
• IN-Gov: According to Howey Politics, state House Minority Leader Scott Pelath is considering a bid for governor, even though he's sounded very lukewarm in the past. Pelath had previously said he's focused on helping his party win back seats at the legislative level, where Indiana Republicans now have a super-majority, colorfully explaining: "If we don't increase the Democrats in the legislature, the legislature will merely be a torture device for any Democratic governor."
But with GOP Gov. Mike Pence stumbling badly over his botched handling of the state's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Democrats have shown increased interest in the race. A new poll for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, found Pence tied at 47 apiece with former state House Speaker John Gregg, who is the Democrat furthest along in preparing a campaign. But he hasn't formally declared yet, and the party may yet unite around an alternative like Pelath, or could even see a contested primary.
• KY-Gov: Tea partying businessman Matt Bevin really wants you to know he's a conservative in his new primary spot.
• MO-Gov: Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder just offered his strongest expression of interest in a possible gubernatorial bid to date, saying he's "prayerfully and very humbly" considering a bid. Kinder, who is presently seeking re-election, would find himself entering a very busy GOP primary, but he'd also be avoiding a challenge for another term in the number two slot from former Missouri Club for Growth chair Bev Randles, who just stepped down from her post to focus on her campaign.
Randles is backed by a massive $1 million donation from conservative zillionaire Rex Sinquefield, who's also contributed seven figures to former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway's campaign for governor. Kinder barely survived his 2012 primary against another very well-funded opponent, but he may have a better shot at continuing his political career in a multi-way contest than in another one-on-one.
• MT-Gov: Businessman Greg Gianforte has been positioning himself behind-the-scenes for a bid against first-term Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock for a while, and the National Journal takes a look at him.
Gianforte is incredibly wealthy, with assets approaching $1 billion, and it sounds like he's ready to self-fund. (Gianforte's company also used to employ now-Sen. Steve Daines). However, Gianforte's social conservative views could be a liability even in red Montana. Gianforte is close to conservative groups and has opposed LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances. An October Global Strategy Group poll for the DGA gave Bullock an insane 72 percent approval rating, but Gianforte's wealth can give him a bumpy re-election.
• NC-Gov: Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker had been considering run for governor, but with state Attorney General Roy Cooper looking unbeatable in the Democratic primary, Meeker now thinks the race is "out of reach" (in the words the News & Observer). However, Meeker says he's weighing a possible bid for labor commissioner, which would pit him against Republican incumbent Cherie Berry.
• WV-Gov: Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has made it no secret that he's interested of reclaiming his old job as governor next year, and he's promised a decision before Memorial Day. On Tuesday, Manchin released a mid-March poll from Global Strategy Group that shows him waltzing back to Charleston, leading Attorney General Patrick Morrisey 60-30 in a hypothetical general election. Manchin posts a 66-26 rating (it's unclear if they asked his approval or favorable scores), while Morrisey is at a more modest 25-18. Rep. David McKinley and state Senate President Bill Cole have also expressed interest in running; while GSG doesn't appear to have tested these Republicans in head-to-head matchups, they took a look at their approvals. They give McKinley a 22-11 score, and say Cole's is 12-9.
While internal polls always needed to be treated with skepticism, Manchin's intimidating leads were confirmed by Harper, a Republican firm:
• 58-29 vs. Morrisey
• 54-32 vs. Cole
• 52-35 vs. McKinley
While Harper gave the Republicans better ratings than GSG, they found Manchin holding a 62-33 approval rating. But if Manchin sits the contest out, Harper says the general election will look a lot different. They tested the trio of Republicans against two Democrats: state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (who is already running) and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin:
• Goodwin 35, Cole 37
• Kessler 34, Cole 38
• Goodwin 35, McKinley 40
• Kessler 32, McKinley 42
• Goodwin 36, Morrisey 36
• Kessler 35, Morrisey 38
While the contest isn't hopeless without Manchin, there's no doubt that Democrats would be in much better shape with him as their standard bearer again.
However, national Democrats may not be so excited if the senator returns home. Manchin is up for re-election in 2018, and it's not going to be easy to hold onto his seat in this increasingly Republican state. And while under current state law Manchin or outgoing Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin could appoint someone to Manchin's seat, the Republican state legislature is trying to change that. It only takes a simple majority from each chamber to override gubernatorial vetoes, so there isn't much stopping them from altering the law to order a special election for any Senate vacancies. The DSCC would not enjoy trying to defend this seat in a 2017 special but Manchin may not give them any choice.
• CA-17: Ugh. We'd been hearing reports about a possible repeat engagement for a while, but for the first time, former Commerce Department official Ro Khanna has declared publicly that he has his eye on a rematch with Rep. Mike Honda. And Khanna wasn't lying when he said he's been "laying the groundwork" for a second bid. He announced that he'd raised $801,000 during the last three months, far ahead of Honda's $258,000 haul during the same time period. Honda's team says the incumbent is "absolutely running to continue to serve this district," and he proved in 2014 that he can go toe-to-toe with Khanna's money machine, but he's going to need to pick up the pace.
Last cycle, Khanna came close to unseating Honda, a fellow Democrat, by running to his right (and by insinuating the incumbent was too old to serve), but he fell short by a 52-48 margin. With Democratic turnout likely to be much stronger next year, it's hard to say why Khanna thinks his luck would be better this time, assuming he's driven by something more than blind ego (a big assumption). Khanna has access top some top-flight data consultants, so perhaps his polling shows something we're not aware of. Or maybe he's just hoping that Honda changes course and retires to avoid another intensive contest. No matter what, this news sucks for progressives.
• CA-24: While Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams was reportedly taking a serious look at this open seat, he announced on Monday that he'll instead run for a spot on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors that's now open because Supervisor Salud Carbajal decided to pursue a congressional bid here. The Sacramento Bee wrote that Williams was very unlikely to compete against Democratic operative Laura Capps, the daughter of retiring Rep. Lois Capps, and his move may be a sign that Laura is close to getting in. Then again, being a freshman congressman in the (likely) minority isn't a particularly fun place to be, and Williams might have just decided he'd have more influence on the county board.
• CA-44: State Assemblyman Isadore Hall had been running without any real opposition in this safe Democratic seat, but Hermosa Beach City Councilwoman Nanette Barragan announced on Tuesday that she would also seek this post.
Barragan shouldn't expect an easy contest though. Hall has used his time alone in the race well, picking up endorsements from departing Rep. Janice Hahn and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Hermosa Beach is also located in the 33rd District, though Barragan says she'll move to the 44th. But Hermosa Beach isn't just a district away from the 44th (or two: The most direct way travel between the two is to pass through CA-43), it's also a world away. While the 44th is 7 percent non-Hispanic white, Hermosa Beach is 81 percent. Barragan's current constituency is also far more affluent than the people she wants to represent. Hermosa Beach's median household income is about $101,000, compared to CA-44's $44,000.
While Barragan is Hispanic like most of the district's residents, she's still likely to be portrayed as a carpetbagger who is parachuting into a community she doesn't at all understand. By contrast, Hall already represents 60 percent of CA-44 in Sacramento, so he won't have this issue. While Barragan gives Hall an actual opponent, she'll need a lot to go right if she's going to beat him.
• FL-09: It's far from clear if Democratic incumbent Alan Grayson will run for the Senate, or when he'd decide (he's hinted he may not make his move until the May 2016 filing deadline) but one local office holder is already preparing to replace him in the House. Democratic state Sen. Darren Soto says he'll definitely jump in if this Orlando-area seat opens up, but he made it clear that he won't run if Grayson seeks re-election. There are other candidates who could try for this seat if Grayson leaves, though Soto may be well-connected enough to clear the field if it comes down to it.
Obama won this seat 62-37, and it should be safe for Team Blue in a presidential year. In 2012, the GOP hoped that Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones could make inroads with Puerto Rican voters against Grayson, but Quinones lost his primary before the NRCC ever got the chance to test their strategy. In an open seat race, the GOP might try landing another candidate who could appeal to the area's large Puerto Rican population. But Soto, the state Senate's first Puerto Rican member, wouldn't make it easy for them.
• FL-18: Martin County School Board member Rebecca Negron just became the first Republican to enter the race to succeed Rep. Patrick Murphy, though she won't have the field to herself for long. Former state Rep. Carl Domino, whom Murphy shellacked last year, sounds very likely to try again, saying "it would be hard to believe I won't get in." Domino's not exactly intimidating, but plenty of other Republicans are also looking, and one of them, state Rep. Pat Rooney, says he won't decide until after May 1. That's when the legislative session ends in Florida, so things could get a lot busier come next month.
As for Negron, she's pursuing a tried and true strategy for losing the GOP primary:
"Partisan politics will always exist, but we must find a way to avoid partisan policies that do not move our communities and our nation forward," she said in a news release. "We can still retain our individualistic spirit and celebrate our differences and unique perspectives, but we must work to find common ground that will result in real change."
Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder tried some similar run-to-the-center nonsense in 2012, when he primaried then-Rep. Allen West and got obliterated by a 74-26 margin
. Maybe Negron is hoping that a crowded field will allow her to sneak through with a soft plurality, but really, it's not a good idea to announce in advance that you abhor red meat at a carnivore's convention.
• IL-13: Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to wrest Illinois' swingy 13th District from Republicans two cycles in a row yet haven't had any luck so far (even though they're the ones who drew the lines—though they could have been drawn better). But given that this seat went for Mitt Romney by less than a point (and was carried by Barack Obama in 2008), it has to remain at the top of Team Blue's target list if there's any hope of ever reclaiming the House.
However, we haven't heard much talk of any potential candidates rising to challenge sophomore GOP Rep. Rodney Davis yet, though a while back, Democratic state Sen. Andy Manar didn't rule the idea out. (Said Manar: "I'm never dismissive of anything.") Like the 13th, Manar's state Senate district is also evenly split (50-48 Obama), so he at least has experience winning on this sort of turf.
• NH-01: Democrat Chris Pappas, a member of New Hampshire's unique Executive Council, says his supporters are encouraging him to run against GOP Rep. Frank Guinta but he doesn't sound especially keen. Pappas called the attention "flattering," but he added "I also know how difficult campaigns are" and said he'll "think about opportunities that may be there in the future." Pappas is just 34, so he has plenty of time ahead of him.
But if he did run, he'd probably have to face off against ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the primary. However, given her weak fundraising skills, plus the fact that it would be her second comeback attempt, many Democrats would probably be excited to see a new face. Already in the race is self-funding businessman Shawn O'Connor.
• NY-19: It's been over three months since Republican Rep. Chris Gibson announced that he was retiring from this Upstate swing seat, and the race to succeed him has been remarkably slow to take shape. But former Republican Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, who badly lost the 2006 gubernatorial contest to the once-popular Eliot Spitzer, says he's thinking about a comeback. But don't hold your breath waiting for Faso, who hints that he won't decide before the summer.
Faso sought an earlier version of this seat in a 2009 special election, but lost the nomination to James Tedisco, who proceeded to lose the general (but let it not be said that Tedisco's sacrifice was in vain). Faso's name was touted for a number of different offices in 2010 but he stayed put, and has been pretty quiet since then. Faso may have some company if he enters the GOP primary. Assemblyman Pete Lopez has made it clear that he's very interested, while state Sen. James Seward and Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin have also talked about running, and there are other Republicans who could seek this post. Things have been quiet on the Democratic side, though the DCCC is definitely going to be looking to put this Obama 52-46 seat back in play.
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.